Lincoln Centre 1977.
Sitting on a dune at the ocean at the western end of the Pines is the house known as Lincoln Centre. It was built and designed by Architect Arthur Erickson and Interior designer Francisco Kripaz. Kripaz designed the interiors to acknowledge the dramatic views of the sea and beach with translucence and clarity rather than attempt some grandiose or eccentric statement.
It was an early decision to make the interior all white deferring to the sea. Using italian tile throughout the main floor reducing everything to a minimalist palette, and letting the sand , sea, and vegetation be the color.
In a doubled storied living room the entire roof silently slides open to the sky at the touch of a button. By day and night extending the relationship to the sky and stars.
The home also had another unique feature. The fencing facing the ocean were hinged so when the beach was empty the fences could be lowered and the house was open to the view of the ocean.
The home was featured in the July/August 1979 issue of Architectural Digest magazine with photography by Ezra Stoller.
Recollections of Francisco Kripaz:
Here are some of the unpublished photo’s by Ezra Stoller of ESTO:
The walkway upstairs with Disco lighting.
The home played host to many parties and celebrities throughout the 70’s as seen below at record executive Marc Simon’s birthday party in 1979.
The architect of Lincoln Centre and more passed in 2009, and is remembered here:
Canada’s most celebrated architect
Arthur often stayed with me on visits to Toronto and, on this particular evening, he had attended a small dinner party with Pierre Trudeau and novelist Robertson Davies. When I asked about the “famous Canadians” dinner he simply shrugged and said with his characteristic bemused smile, “Let’s go out –– somewhere with dancing boys!”
Before long, we were shoulder to shoulder with the crowd at Katrina’s, then the hotspot for go-go boys. I spied a buff, 20-ish guy in a York University T-shirt and asked him what he was studying. “Architecture” came the curt reply. I started to introduce him to my architect companion but one glance at Erickson’s gray head caused the student to turn and flee.
“Well, Arthur,” I said, as we both smiled broadly, “an hour ago you were dining with Pierre Trudeau and Robertson Davies but now you’re just another old fag.”
The gym bunnies hadn’t always snubbed Arthur Erickson. The buffed and the beautiful once vied for invitations to parties hosted by him and his longtime partner, Francisco Kripacz, at their homes in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Manhattan and Fire Island.
For one particularly memorable party in Fire Island Pines on Jul 7, 1979, Kripacz had filled their soaring, Erickson-designed beach house with gold and silver balloons. At midnight, the house’s retractable roof opened and the balloons ascended into the starlit sky.
Amidst clouds of dry-ice fog, singer France Joli then appeared to belt out her disco hit “Come to Me” for the boogying men below.
Later, this party would be described in a number of memoirs as an iconic “last waltz” before AIDS cast its long shadow over Fire Island and the gay world.
It would prove to be a milestone for Erickson and Kripacz as well. Before long they would sever their personal relationship, while still maintaining a business partnership. (A talented designer, Kripacz created the interiors for many Erickson buildings.)
In the early ’80s, Kripacz moved into a house in Beverly Hills with a fetching young Californian and worked out of Erickson’s LA office.
Erickson made Toronto his home base and lived in a converted Rosedale garage that bore a remarkable similarity to the house he had lived in for many years in Vancouver’s Point Grey. His Toronto living room was dominated by a rectangular Roy Lichtenstein canvas and I remember standing beside it during a 1986 party celebrating his gold medal from the American Institute of Architects. He was the first Canadian to receive one and wore the medal with boyish pride. The party had been organized by Erickson’s new live-in partner, Alan Steele, a square-jawed American with blond hair and horn-rimmed glasses.
But this party, too, would prove to be elegiac.
Even as he was receiving one of the architecture world’s highest honours, the Erickson Architectural Corporation was foundering. At its height, the company maintained five offices around the world but soon the business, and Erickson himself, became overextended.
When large building projects in the Middle East began to unravel in the late 1980s so did the Erickson Corporation. Nasty stories began to appear in the newspapers about high living and personal excess. By 1992, it was all gone –– the offices were closed, the homes in Toronto, New York and LA were vacated, the Lichtenstein was carted off to the auction house. By then Alan Steele had died from the effects of HIV/AIDS. Kripacz’s partner in LA, too, had succumbed to the disease and Kripacz himself was HIV-positive.
Erickson’s equanimity during this dreadful time was remarkable. In the summer of 1990, I had rented a house near Santa Fe with him and Alan Steele. Deeply angry about his failing health and their collapsing fortunes, Steele would frequently vent his rage on Erickson.
When I asked him how he stood it, Erickson expressed such love and compassion for Steele that I found myself blinking back tears. The Zen-like aspects of Erickson’s work have often been commented on but his personality, too, had a Buddhist sensibility: calm, detached and suffused with a gently humorous view of life’s vicissitudes.
Of any “name” person I’ve known, Erickson had the least ego. He never needed to dominate a dinner table. It was only with prodding that he might tell you of trekking with Trudeau in Tibet, of time on the beach with Princess Diana, or of gossiping about spiritual teachers with his good friend Shirley MacLaine.
The wheel of samsara turned for Erickson as he knew it would. He returned to the house in Point Grey (it had been saved from foreclosure by a foundation) and resumed his architectural work. The death in 2000 of Kripacz, the great love of his life, was a cause of much sadness but Erickson carried on –– teaching, travelling, and designing. Such fine buildings as The Glass Museum in Tacoma and Vancouver’s Portland Hotel would follow.
I last visited him five months before his death and was saddened to see him so frail. But even with his memory diminished, he was still remarkably present. His keen eye for beauty was alert to the birds in his garden, to the design of a book I gave to him, to the cut of his elegant shirt.
A remarkable architectural legacy survives him, particularly in his native city. But for his friends, his legacy is also the example of how one can greet life with calmness, humour, insight –– and acceptance.
New book by the late Arthur Erickson and edited by his nephew Geoffrey Erickson:
Recollections of Geoffrey Erickson:
I have wonderful memories of Francisco, going all the way back to Expo ’67 when my brother Christopher and I stayed at his apartment in Montreal. The interiors of Francisco’s pad were like nothing I had ever seen. The floors, walls, and ceiling of the bathroom were covered in white fur!
Arthur and Francisco were so generous, bringing us all kinds of exotic gifts from their world travels. They would give my mom and grandmother gorgeous fabrics which their dressmaker would turn into beautiful outfits. I remember one Halloween in the early 1970’s when they brought back enormous fireworks on the plane from China. Francisco fused together a row of “Roman Candles” on the hill in Arthur’s garden, and what a show when he lit the fuse! The scale of the fireworks was far beyond anything we expected and it attracted a throng of neighbors, and the police.
Arthur and Francisco befriended and entertained the A-list of the Hollywood crowd in L.A., and the arts crowd in New York, including Andy Warhol who wanted Arthur to design a house for him. They became famous for their parties, which the press covered in great detail. It got to the point where Francisco’s friend—the famous couturier Hubert de Givenchy—came to depend on him to organize his birthday parties! (Givenchy was the one who dressed Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich).
Francisco was always the most fashionable person I knew, and wore the best designer’s clothes—but only once or twice—before he’d give them to “the boys”. Once a year we would receive packed designer suitcases filled with elegant (and sometimes wild) outfits. When I travelled, Arthur and Francisco would make arrangements for me to meet interesting people. On my first trip to L.A., I stayed in the Belair mansion of Geoffrey and Jasmine Lindsay, who were also close friends of Elizabeth Taylor. In the disco era I visited “The Saint” nightclub with Francisco in New York City. He was treated like a star there, where he was an inaugural member. They had turned the old Filmore East concert hall into a suspended high tech planetarium with a revolving dance floor overflowing with dry ice, and the stage was turned into a giant bar. Francisco got the star treatment everywhere we went including the Calvin Klein showrooms designed by his friend Joe D’Urso, who he arranged for me to meet.
Francisco was very particular about design and style and the designs he worked on with Arthur had a timeless, classical quality. Socially he kept Arthur connected with the “In-Crowd” around the world. They were unlike any other Canadians in their sophistication and worldwide connections. It was always exciting to see them, and experience their warmth, generosity, and tales of worldly adventure.
-Nephew of Arthur Erickson and designer and editor of Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design by Arthur Erickson