Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design

Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design

Arthur Erickson (author) and Geoffrey Erickson (editor)

Reviewed by Lőrinc Vass

For nearly four decades, Francisco Kripacz (1942-2000) created the most exuberant interiors for buildings designed by the renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. Born in Hungary, raised in Venezuela, and educated around the world, Kripacz met Erickson in 1961, shortly before Erickson’s rise to international recognition, and became his life-long partner, inspiration, and collaborator. Recognizing his talent, Erickson encouraged Kripacz to study art and design in Vancouver and New York, and put him in charge of interiors at Arthur Erickson Architects. Kripacz subsequently directed the firm’s Los Angeles office through the 1980s, during which time he was awarded “Designer of the Year” by Interiors magazine -- a rare instance of having his work recognized in its own right. Following Kripacz’s untimely death, Erickson intended to pay him tribute with a volume on his major designs, but he did not live to see the manuscript published. Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design has been completed by his nephew Geoffrey Erickson, whose decision to become an interior designer was inspired in part by Kripacz’s work.

The volume comprises twenty projects, organized chronologically from the early 1970s through the late 1990s. In his commentary, arranged among masterful photographs, Erickson intersperses meticulous descriptions of material detail with anecdotes about clients, travels, and social ambiance. Featured are the interiors of some of his best-known buildings, such as Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, and Napp Laboratories in England. Also included are Kripacz and Erickson’s residences in Toronto, New York, and Fire Island. Throughout the book, Kripacz receives praise for his infallible taste in selecting materials and finishes and for achieving an elegance grounded in simplicity. While his indulgence in suede and leather upholstery, polished metal surfaces, tubular stainless steel frames, and stone tabletops might feel dated today, at his best Kripacz skilfully incorporates furniture elements, finishes, textures, and colours into a unified field of optical and tactile effect that resonates with the architecture. His ingenuity in diverse contexts is already evident from the British Columbian designs featured here: the velvet-and-wood and chrome-plated steel furnishings of the two Eppich Houses in West Vancouver, the deep blue vinyl tiles and polycarbonate partitions of the former Lanyon Phillips offices in downtown Vancouver, and Erickson’s house in Point Grey, where Kripacz tiled the living room walls with squares of Italian suede that blend with the matching colour of carpet and upholstery.

Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design offers both a first in-depth account of the work of Kripacz and an original cross-section through Erickson’s diverse practice. Presented through the lens of tactile finishes and furniture, the volume shows the potential synergy between architecture and interior design realized to its fullest. As Arthur Erickson remarks, “If the final work becomes a consummate marriage of intent, both disciplines and the project itself gain immeasurably” (5). A compelling visual essay for those interested in architecture and interiors, this pleasurable treatise also offers many rare glimpses into the exuberant lives of Arthur Erickson and Francisco Kripacz.

Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design
Arthur Erickson (author) and Geoffrey Erickson (editor)
Vancouver: Figure 1 Publishing, 2015. 192 pp. $50 cloth

BC Studies no. 192 Winter 2016/17