Whether he was designing buildings and spaces for universities, museums, performing arts venues, or libraries, Arthur Erickson was preoccupied with intersections – of people, of cultures, and of ideas. Published by Concordia University Press and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Arthur Erickson on Learning Systems collects writings by an architect advocating for interdisciplinary approaches to education and the methods for sharing knowledge. In essays on one of his mid-1960s masterpieces, the Simon Fraser University campus, Erickson explains how he intended to avoid compartmentalization between academic disciplines by thinking of a campus as akin to a “biological system” capable of adaptation. He outlines how his design placed a spine through the campus to circulate people – and communication between them – while making space for additional buildings as they became needed. These writings also show Erickson reflecting on whether his original vision was maintained by future development on the site and considering how university education changed in the decades that followed.
An introduction by Melanie O’Brian nuances Erickson’s big-picture thinking. She draws parallels between curatorial practices and his approach to learning spaces, and she discusses the experiences of campus users following university expansion and increased specialization among academic disciplines.