An Arthur Erickson-designed garden


Last week I had the privilege of touring a private home and garden designed by celebrated architect Arthur Erickson. One of the Vancouver-based architect’s earliest residential works, the minimalist wooden structure seamlessly integrates with the landscape.


From outside the property, dense plantings hint at something special beyond the simple fence.


Entering from the side lane, the house is directly in front of you. To your left (above), is brilliant sunshine and the architect’s trademark use of chain as downspout. To your right (below), is a dark, dense pathway that hints at an emergence in open, bright space.


I loved the feeling of contraction and expansion this garden achieved with varying widths of paths, and with the intensity or absence of light.


Entering the house, the door swings inwards, blocking the view of the stairs behind it until you close the door, look down the stairs and see the pond, seemingly rising up from the basement. In reality, there is a glass wall opposite the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. How blurred the line between interior and exterior space is!


A common element in Erickson’s designs is the use of water, and using the earth moved when creating the pond or water feature to create an opposite balance of hill or “mountain.”


The path leads over and through the mounded “hills.”


The main hill, with the stones at the edge of the pond visible in the lower right corner. Rhododendrons, Japanese maples, moss, and other Pacific Northwest-appropriate plants are heavily utilized. The owner, a vibrant 87-year old, does all his own gardening.


I loved this rock, a dappled island in a sea of moss. So Vancouver.


But I also loved this echevaria “ball” – a planting in a shallow dish that echoed the stones it sat on. Definitely not typical!

There’s a retrospective of Arthur Erickson‘s work at the Vancouver Art Gallery on now. You can also book guided toursof Erickson’s own garden.

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