Over the course of his distinguished career, architect Arthur Erickson (1924-2009) designed numerous houses, each an exercise in transforming the needs of his clients into tangible form in the context of site and place. Artists Gordon Smith (1919-) and Marion Smith (1918-2009) of Vancouver were the only Erickson clients to commission him to design two homes. The first (1955) was a straightforward exercise in post-World War II modernism that represented the transplantation of prevailing North American design thinking to the mountainous rain forests of coastal Vancouver. The second house (1966) – Smith House II as it came to be known – likewise situated in a forest but with the added benefit of ocean and island vistas, was simultaneously a deft reworking of the stylistic and spatial culture of the first house and a remarkable, path-breaking study in cultural transposition, interpretation and adaptation. Emphasizing its disavowal of conventional demarcations of space and the movement within and through it, it translated the material and aesthetic sensibilities of 17th century Japanese domestic architecture to the circumstances of mid-20th century North America (and the northerly Pacific coast).
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