Museum of Anthropology, 1976
Museum of Anthropology, 1976/ 2010/ 2022
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
Designed by Arthur Erickson Architects with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (1976)
Arthur Erickson with Stantec Architecture and Cornerlia Hahn Oberlander (2010)
Nick Milkovich Architects with Hapa Collaborative, Atelier Anonymous, and Equilibrium Engineering (2021)
RAIC Festival of Architecture Award, 1980
Governor General’s Award for Architecture, 1983
RAIC Prix du XXe Sie?cle Award, 2011
PLACES | Museum of Anthropology
Great Hall Seismic Reconstruction
Last update March 6, 2022
An Icon of Modern West Coast Architecture
Since its completion in 1976, the Museum of Anthropology has cemented its stature as one of British Columbia’s most iconic cultural buildings, and one of the best works of the 20th century, as recognized by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Sited on a bluff atop a steep, sandy cliff overlooking the Strait of Georgia and the North Shore mountains, the building was designed by prominent architect Arthur Erickson in concert with landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. The design of the museum drew inspiration from traditional Haidi building typologies, originating from the north-central coastal regions of British Columbia, along with Japanese influences, however, it is important to note that the lands of the University of British Columbia are the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musquem.
The Museum of Anthropology is an expansive cultural facility focused primarily on the education and public display of traditional First Nations history, arts, and culture. Along with its architectural innovations, the museum is programmatically unique in its visible storage of artefacts, allowing for the majority of the collection to be on public display year-round. The centerpiece of the building, however, is the near 5-storey tall Great Hall, an impressive space composed of a series of post-and-beam concrete structures, infilled with expansive frameless glazing. Constructed to house totem poles, in view against a day-lit backdrop of mature trees, tall grasses, and a surrounding pond, the design is an education in the melding of architecture and landscape. “The building is a sublime testament to Arthur Erickson’s design philosophy which is founded on a deep understanding of the ‘function and meaning of architecture as an art of environmental context and of cultural expression, as something having more than sheer mechanistic utility, as something expressive of the human condition and the human spirit.’”
 Nick Milkovich Architects
Great Hall Reconstruction
The University of British Columbia is undertaking a massive rehabilitation effort to the Museum of Anthropology, set off in large part by the need to significantly upgrade the seismic capacity of the original concrete structure. Following numerous technical studies, it was concluded that seismic improvements and/or retrofitting would not achieve the performance required and would greatly compromise the integrity of the original architectural design. Therefore, the Great Hall will be demolished and sensitively rebuilt in order to achieve a seismic resiliency that will safeguard the building’s preservation in the event of a major earthquake. As part of this renewal effort, upgrades will also be undertaken to fire protection systems, natural and artificial lighting, and sun shading.
Given the building’s architectural and historical significance, plans have been developed in consultation with the Arthur Erickson Foundation, the Musqueam Indian Band, other indigenous communities, and under the architectural direction of Nick Milkovich Architects and stewardship of landscape architects Hapa Collaborative.
Museum of Anthropology Great Hall Renewal: UBC Campus Planning.
Great Hall Seismic Upgrades + Renewal: Museum of Anthropology
Museum of Anthropology: Envelope & Seismic Upgrade. Nick Milkovich Architects.
Museum of Anthroloogy: Atelier Anonymous.
Arthur Erickson Architects (1976)
Arthur Erickson with Stantec Architecture (2010)
Nick Milkovich Architects (2021)
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (1976/2010)
Hapa Collaborative (2021)
Atelier Anonymous (2021) – Heritage Survey and S.O.S.
Equilibrium Consulting (2021)
- January 31, 2023: Reconstruction of the Great Hall is underway.
- March 6, 2022: Demolition of the Great Hall is underway.
- November 15, 2020: Recent media reports have publicly confirmed the rumours that have been swirling around the architectural community for the past few years. The Great Hall of the Museum of Anthropology, designed by Arthur Erickson and originally completed in 1976, will be demolished and sensitively rebuilt to exacting standards. This, after numerous technical reports concluded that upgrades and/or retrofitting of the original concrete structure would not result in the upgraded seismic resiliency required and would compromise the integrity of the Arthur’s architectural vision.
- UBC to rebuild Museum of Anthropology’s Great Hall for seismic upgrades. Craig Takeuchi. November 10, 2020. The Georgia Straight.
- One of B.C.’s iconic structures to be rebuilt. John Mackie. November 10, 2020. The Vancouver Sun.
- Iconic Vancouver landmark to be torn down and rebuilt to make it seismically safe. Nafeesa Karim. November 16, 2020. CTV Vancouver.
- The Museum of Anthropology’s Great Hall readies for massive seismic upgrades. Janet Smith. October 25, 2018. The Georgia Straight.