John Graham of Graham Sherwin Studio, has been comissioned for our Lobby Renewal project. As it is a coming home project of sorts, we wanted to know more about his work as the junior architect alongside renowned architect Arthur Erickson on the hotel’s stunning Erickson Wing project in the late 80’s.
How did you become connected to the Laurel Point Inn?
When I was working with Arthur Erickson’s office in 1987, I got a call out of the blue from Paul Arsens who said he was planning to add onto his hotel, that he was looking for an architect, and that I had been recommended by a friend. When I met with Paul at his office, hanging on the wall beside me was a big photograph from the 1950’s of Paul and a bunch of his artist friends, and there in the middle was my dad wearing a funny hat. Paul already knew my background long before I knew his.
What was the original inspiration for the Erickson Wing?
The first time I looked at the site I thought “This is the most amazing place between two harbours. Somehow we have to make it feel like we’re sitting right on the water on beautiful ship. That’s why the details of the outside of the Erickson Wing have a nautical feel, and why the water garden comes right up to the building. And if you look at an aerial photograph you’ll see that the hotel looks a bit like a ship going through the water.”
What was your favourite part of working on the addition?
Every week I would come and spend a day with Paul and we’d just talk about anything and everything that mattered to him about the hotel. Once he got up in the middle of a sentence and went over to show a server how to cut a small slice off the bottom of a piece of papaya so that it wouldn’t rock on the plate when you put it in front of a guest. Take care of the details, he told me, and everything else would take care of itself. I would go back to the office and design furiously for another week and come back to talk some more. At the end of the project Paul said “Well, I don’t know what we talked about all those months, but somehow it turned into a great building.”
How does the lobby renewal fulfill the dream of the original vision?
Paul knew he had to completely redo the lobby. But he couldn’t do that and the Erickson Wing at the same time so he drew a line beside the elevator and said “That’s as far as you go.” I couldn’t wait to go farther. I wanted to complete the whole guest experience. In the end I had to wait 28 years but it was worth the wait. Now I get to complete the picture along with my partner Pam Sherwin who also, interestingly, had a big part in the ideas that turned into the Erickson Wing. There’s a lovely symmetry to all that because Paul Arsens built the hotel with his partner Artie, and like us they had a lot of fun doing it.
What are you most looking forward to seeing when this is complete?
We can’t wait to see the look on people’s faces when they arrive at the new lobby and feel somehow they’re on the prow of a ship right in the inner harbour. That’s why the lobby comes to a point and why from the moment you arrive you’ll be looking right through the lobby to the harbour beyond. Being on a point is what makes the property so special and we want people to have that experience.
What is your favourite planned architectural feature?
There are so many great parts to this project all through the hotel, so it’s hard to pick just one. But if we had to pick one it would be what you see as you drive up to the entrance, the huge glass canopy in the shape of a laurel leaf. It’s going to be seventy feet long, thirty feet wide with tiny lights hidden all over the underside to create a starry glow at night.
What would you term the architectural design of Inn at Laurel Point?
There isn’t a term that really fits because the design of the hotel is so much about that particular place. The words we use are modern, warm, relaxed, serene; it’s not so much the style as the way you feel when you’re there, which is what the whole hotel is about.
What do you hope guests notice or appreciate?
We hope guests notice how much has been done to make them comfortable, not just by us but also by the staff who bring the place to life every day. It’s a great group of people; they love the place and they’ll do anything to make your experience more comfortable and memorable. They’ve all contributed ideas to the design and they’re excited to see how it all turns out.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Stay tuned! It’s going to be a whole new experience, not just when you arrive at the hotel but all the way through the public areas to the water garden on the other side. We can’t wait but in the mean time we’ve got a lot to do!