Arthur Erickson Place
Credit: Lydia Nagai Photography

Projection of Arthur Erickson during the light show at the recent renaming of 1075 West Georgia

The former Vancouver HQ of forestry titan MacMillan Bloedel, located at 1075 West Georgia Street, has been renamed Arthur Erickson Place

At BCBusiness, we get invited to a lot of events. Until now, we couldn’t say we’d attended one that finished with a light show on the face of an architectural landmark.

That was the scene last Thursday evening when a crowd gathered in the plaza outside 1075 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. The occasion, over drinks and canapes, and accompanied by a string quartet: renaming former B.C. forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel’s onetime headquarters as Arthur Erickson Place.

Designed by the late Erickson in partnership with fellow architect Geoffrey Massey in 1965, the imposing 26-storey concrete block became known as the MacBlo building after it was completed three years later. It’s now owned by two Vancouver companies—Crestpoint Real Estate Investments and Reliance Properties—and Toronto-headquartered KingSett Capital.

“When 1075 West Georgia was constructed over 50 years ago, it signalled that Vancouver was becoming a global city,” said Lara Di Gregorio, director of acquisitions and asset management with Crestpoint. “Since we acquired this magnificent structure in 2019, we’ve heard many stories from people detailing why this building is important to them, or why this building is seared in their memories.”

Di Gregorio paid tribute to the famed Vancouver-born architect’s “powerful, monolithic design, which was so ahead of its time. It’s hard to understand how Erickson foresaw the future requirements of office design.”

As Di Gregorio noted, Erickson’s global portfolio totals some 700 designs, just nine of which are office buildings. Only two of those office structures are in Vancouver—1075 West Georgia and the Evergreen Building on West Pender Street.

Arthur Erickson Place
Credit: Lydia Nagai Photography

Umbrella in hand, guests commemorate the Canadian Government Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan

Also among the attendees was Erickson’s nephew. “It was the tallest building in Vancouver when completed and broke new ground in engineering, office planning and how concrete was used for such a structure,” Geoffrey Erickson said of the newly renamed Arthur Erickson Place.

For example, unlike other buildings, it has no interior columns because the weight is carried through the exterior walls of its two attached towers, he explained. “The mid-’60s were a time of great creativity for arts and culture, and Arthur helped put Canada on the world stage with his bold and daring designs.”

Erickson pointed out that very few architects anywhere have a building of their own design named after them. He also announced the Arthur Erickson 100 Centennial Celebration in 2024, which will be preceded by various events and activities.

“Vancouver, at least by its size, is the youngest city in North America,” said Phil Boname, president of the Arthur Erickson Foundation. “Its immaturity is notable in its difficulty, unlike more mature cities, to recognize, honour and celebrate individuals who, by virtue of their ‘genius-ness,’ have seen their homes, offices and the like converted to museums, shrines, gardens, all of great public importance. Tonight, we are witnesses to a monumental exception—the honouring of not only Canada’s most renowned architect but also one of his most iconic works.”

The event included a lobby exhibition of items such as copies of Time and Architectural Record magazines featuring the MacBlo building, as well as Erickson’s original sketch of its design. “It demonstrates the inspiration and strength of great tree trunks rising high into the sky,” Geoffrey Erickson said.

Also on display: colourful silkscreen prints by late B.C. artist Gordon Smith that were the graphic designs for the giant rotating umbrellas at the Canadian Government Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, designed by Erickson, Massey, Smith and structural engineer Jeffrey Lindsay.

To commemorate that effort, guests received coloured umbrellas and assembled in the courtyard for a portrait. They then headed across the street from what is now Arthur Erickson Place to take in the digital light show. The projected images included pastel works by a 16-year-old Erickson, one of which appeared at the Vancouver Art Gallery.