Prominent Canadian architect Arthur Erickson died Wednesday May 20th at the age of 84. He was living in a Vancouver B.C. suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This was brought to my attention through an article in Washington Post (requires login), same article without pictures on HeraldNet (no login required).
In Fresno, conversations about architecture often stray to the question “So, what do you think about City Hall?” and they are often delivered in a loaded tone. My response is that I admire the building’s bravery, in breaking from the tradition of NeoClassical and Beaux-Arts styles overused for civic building in the United States. Further I appreciate that it took on an Organic feel the building embraces.
The angular metal roof line referencesÂ the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the east. A gap at the peak reinforce that reference and reads through to the interior as a skylight in council chambers. The roof juts out over pedestrian walk ways, and becomes landscape. There is strong formality with symmetrical and grand sweeping entries up to the second floor and council chambers.
The building of course is not with out it’s flaws. And I imagine some might share those thoughts here. But there was a review written about the the Canadian Embassy in Washington that I feel also pertains to Fresno City Hall: “Erickson has given us a powerful building in a place that calls for one, and there is as well a certain entrancing, poetic quality in its forceful contradictions,” Forgey wrote in The Post in 1988. “His building is an edgy, flawed masterpiece … but a masterpiece.”
William Patnaude FAIA was the local project architect and construction administrator of Fresno City Hall. The creation is as much his as Mr. Erickson’s. I will update with Mr. Patnaude’s thoughts on Erickson next week.
“Global architect, Arthur Charles Erickson is a passionate advocate of cultural awareness, and a fervent explorer of human and natural environments. His buildings, though remarkably diverse, share deep respect for the context, incomparable freshness and grace, and the dramatic use of space and light. He has brought to his work an understanding of the community of man that, when filtered through his insightful mind and fertile imagination, gives birth to a singular architecture that is in dialogue with the world.”