Architecture: Vancouver’s Dazzling Center

Architecture: Vancouvers Dazzling Center
Arthur Erickson designs an airy, elegant masterpiece North Americans have built handsome cities and grown tired of them, as
children grow tired of their presents after Christmas. Few architects
are as aware of such urban waste as Canada's Arthur Erickson, 54, and
few have done more to restore vitality to the inner city. His latest
and most ambitious undertaking is a combination of function and fantasy
in the heart of his native Vancouver. Formally opened in September, the
downtown complex has already put new fizz in the life of a provincial
city. Erickson's oeuvre in Canada's largest West Coast city is a multilevel,
three-block megastructure that blends greenery, glass, pools and
waterfalls, ramps, steps and terraces, domes, blossoms and trees. It unites a large suntan piazza, a luxurious office building for the
British Columbia government and a seven-story courthouse covered with a
shimmering glass roof that is one of the biggest of
its kind in the world. In patios and mini-parks, the three blocks encompass the most extensive
urban planting of trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers of any North
American city: more than 50,000 indigenous maples, dogwoods, pines,
brooms, junipers, sword ferns, rhododendrons, yews and creeping roses.
In some green areas, traffic cannot be seen—or heard over the
splashing of waterfalls. To some, the sloping, low-rise structure
resembles an Inca temple reflecting the spectacular beauty of the
Pacific rim on which it sits. The greatest public attraction is the piazza named Robson Square, after
19th century British Columbia Premier John Robson. A summer mecca for
alfresco lunchers and outdoor shows by dance and theater groups, the
square has two indoor theaters, three restaurants, a cosmopolitan food
fair, an exhibition hall and an outdoor ice-or roller-skating rink.
From the eastern end of the square, zigzagging tiers of steps lead
through a sylvan setting to the government office building, which has
rooftop pools and waterfalls tumbling over large picture windows. The
building's 127,000 sq. ft. of open office space
is separated according to function by low dividers and jungles of