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Like the tens of thousands of ethnographic and archaeological artifacts it contains, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is a work of art. Award-winning architect Arthur Erickson has left his fingerprints across the built fabric of Vancouver, and the 1976-completed concrete facility possesses the hallmarks that made Erickson a Canadian icon of design.

UBC Museum of Anthropology, image by Flickr user Kyle Pearce via Creative Commons

Nestled within a forested corner of the University Endowment Lands and fronted by a reflecting pool, the Museum of Anthropology is renowned for its displays and exhibits of world arts and cultures, including cherished works by First Nation band governments of the Pacific Northwest. These collections informed the design of a new building for the museum, which from its inception in 1947, had been tucked away in the basement of the main campus library. 

UBC Museum of Anthropology, image by Flickr user Colin Knowles via Creative Commons

Erickson was inspired by the post-and-beam architecture of Northwest Coast First Nations people, implementing a series of concrete frames that act as gateways to the campus and mountains beyond, whose rugged form is also captured in the staggered geometry of the building. The grand hall is oriented towards the inlet and contains a colourful parade of Haida totem poles. Its soaring glass windows establish a relationship between the museum's quarters and the area's natural setting.

UBC Museum of Anthropology, image by Flickr user *MandyJ* via Creative Commons

The original vision laid out by Erickson and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander had included the reflecting pool as a landmark element. It didn't make it to realization until 2010, although temporary pools had previously been installed for a movie shoot in 1993, the APEC leaders' summit in 1997 and Erickson's 80th birthday in 2004.

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