|Christmas Eve December 24 2010
Architect Geoff Massey died yesterday and for once, and thanks to writer John Mackie there was a well-written obituary in today’s Vancouver Sun.
Our lovely city has a poor memory for its past. A few days after Arthur Erickson’s death on May 20 2009, his friend, architect Abraham Rogatnick gave a eulogy under the main hall of Simon Fraser University. Rogatnick made it a point to inform the audience that there were two architects involved in the design and building of the university. It was Arthur Erickson and Geoff Massey. The same duo was involved in the former Macmillan Bloedel building (affectionately called the waffle building) on West Georgia.
The reason for this is that Massey liked to be in the background and was quiet spoken. I know this because I met him many times through this friend Rogatnick and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.
I cannot recall why in my file for Massey, the envelope containing 8 negatives, has the following written in my hand: December 24, 2010. And then I remembered I photographed him in my home on Chritmas Eve.
One of the pictures here is that of Massey on the boat that Rogatnick’s friends boarded to spread his ashes on the end of August 2009. I like it because like all the architects I photographed in Vancouver it has that profile that screams “architect!”
There is one story about Massey that few know and I learned it via Rogatnick. Here it is:
It was in the early 50s that a youngish Rogatnick had entered Harvard’s School of Architecture. He was unhappy with his dormitory arrangements and decided he needed to move out into smaller quarters. In the school’s bulletin board he noticed a request for a fourth man to join an out of campus living arrangement. Rogatnick went and was subjected to an intense screening. One of the men was Geoff Massey. Rogatnick was in.
Around 1954 Rogatnick and his loving partner Alvin Balkind decided to travel a bit in their VW Beetle. Rogatnick told Massey of the trip so Massey indicated that he be looked up if he happened to pass by Vancouver.
When Rogatnick and Balkind arrived in Vancouver they instantly fell in love with our then provincial city, so provincial, it didn’t have a serious art gallery of any kind. Rogatnick rang the bell outside of Massey’s home in the West End. The door opened. The man facing them was not Massey. Massey was out of town on his honey moon. The man at the door was Massey’s architecture partner, Arthur Erickson. Erickson and Rogatnick became friends for life.