Another One Bites the Dust: Erickson's Graham House

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Ezra Stoller

If you've gotta have a traditional monster house in Vancouver, you can't let history or genius get in the way. It was Arthur Erickson's breakthrough house in 1963, a stunning multi-storey wood-and-glass house that descends in levels. People are fighting to save it (architecture students are threatening to chain themselves to it) but the wimpy gutless excuse for a city planner Stephen Mikicich says "In the end, this is private property we're talking about,so we're really looking to encourage conservation by the tools that are available to us. " How about making some new tools that work?

Time for Preservation Laws with Teeth


Heritage West Vancouver president Carolanne Reynolds isn't ready to give up the fight, either.

"I really can't understand why a person with a piece of art like that wouldn't feel motivated to make it look its best and have the prestige of being in a house that's internationally known," she said.

It is time for Canada to develop preservation laws with teeth, and to ban demolition.

Designed for a Difficult Site


Erickson says "The David Graham house in 1963 launched my reputation as the architect you went to when you had an impossible site."

From Erickson's site:

The site for the house was a rock cliff dropping forty feet from the arrival level down a sheer cliff to a rock bench over the sea. The solution to this difficult site was the creation of a multi-storey house descending the slope in levels.

The formal idea of the piling up of hovering beams was the basis of the composition. These enclose the major living areas, which step down the embankment for four storeys from the carport to the bluff over the sea below. Each area opens onto a roof terrace over the living quarters below, so that there is maximum access to sunlight and view. Because of the ruggedness of the site, the outside living areas are confined almost entirely to the roof areas of the house itself.

A texture difference is achieved between the walls and box beams by using flat siding on the beams and a deep board and batten on the walls. The house is treated with a simple oil finish and the only other materials used in conjunction with the wood are used brick and a Welsh quarry tile.