October 7, 2016
If there has been any Canadian architect equal to or greater in stature than Arthur Erickson, it would be Bing Thom.
I first met Bing on my arrival in Vancouver in early 1975. Erickson’s office had so much activity and so many talented people, it took a while to develop an understanding of the team. When Arthur decided he wanted Bing, Jim Wright and me to “run” the office, I got to understand Bing’s deep commitment to, and understanding of: people; the community; the forces of society; business; technology; and leadership. His architecture was an outgrowth of this. When Bing went to Toronto, we kept in touch to glean his views on “running” the office, and he was a guiding light from afar.
He was insightful and firm without being offensive or abusive. He usually had a smile and he had a good sense of humour. He was also very persuasive. He knew how to develop a relevant story about project potential that would capture the imagination and initiate the momentum to bring a project from pipe dream to reality.
Bing saw things others could not see. For example, many years ago he forecast that Surrey would outpace Vancouver in growth and importance. His prophecy has not yet been realized, but trends suggest he will be proven right.
I always thought Bing was older than I was and looked up to him as senior in that respect, so I was surprised to learn he was a couple of years younger. I suspect my misconception was due to his intelligence and maturity.
Bing and his wife Bonnie were deeply involved in leading and funding several performing arts organizations and other components of the community.
Although I only saw Bing infrequently in the last few years, I will miss him, as I am sure many of us will. He was always out there as an inspiration of what can be achieved with a vision, leadership and tenacity.