Discover Dyde House, a lesser known Arthur Erickson gem

Dyde House by modernist architect Arthur Erickson is celebrated in a new film, premiered in Canada

Dyde House by Arthur Erickson exterior between trees
(Image credit: Jim Dobie)

A new film about the rediscovery of Dyde House, a 'hidden' Arthur Erickson home, reveals a quiet masterpiece comprising premonitory elements of the renowned Canadian architect’s future work – such as the show-stopping Eppich House. After a sold-out screening at ADFF:Vancouver, Arthur Erickson’s Dyde House has been programmed by the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) for six more screenings in the city in December 2023, and will be coming to the ADFF Winnipeg in March 2024.

Dyde House: watch the trailer

Dyde House: the history

Erickson’s third residential design, conceived in 1960, shortly before his career-changing commission to create Simon Fraser University, sits on 50 acres of pristine aspen parkland outside of Edmonton. The land and the surrounding 190 acres were purchased in 1958 by Henry Alexander Dyde, a war hero and lawyer, and his wife Bobby, a great patron of the arts. The couple donated 80 acres of the land to the University of Alberta to establish the Devonian Botanic Garden, which opened in 1959. A year later, on the recommendation of their painter friend Lilias Torrance Newton in Montreal, they hired the relatively unknown Erickson, then in his mid-thirties, to design their summer home on the property.

Dyde House by Arthur Erickson shot from above

(Image credit: Jim Dobie)

The result was an exquisite modernist architecture gem, that both celebrates and elevates the surrounding landscape. With elements of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the house also boasts distinctively Ericksonian moves, from the dramatic flying beams to the use of skylights to define the interior space. At once grounded in and levitating off the land, the simple structure is a device for drinking in the wilderness. The Vancouver architect's only house built on the prairie recalls later elements of Erickson’s University of Lethbridge as well as SFU and other public projects.

Dyde House by Arthur Erickson dining space interior

(Image credit: Jim Dobie)

Due to the private nature of the couple, who entertained a who’s who of Canadian politicians and culturati in their prairie home, from Prime Minister Lester B Pearson to the painter AY Jackson, this crucible for Canadiana remained largely unseen. Its remote location and summer-only usage (it was uninsulated and originally featured a rustic outhouse) meant that rumours of its demise were often greatly exaggerated.

Dyde House by Arthur Erickson interior with sofa

(Image credit: Jim Dobie)

Then, when the Dydes' heirs donated the house to the University of Alberta in 2016, it was rediscovered by a whole new generation, including Edmontonian film production company Sticks and Stones. Its director Colin Waugh and screenwriters Max Amerongen and Jordan Bloemen – the last doubling as composer of an excellent score – orchestrated the creation of this film.

Dyde House by Arthur Erickson

(Image credit: Jim Dobie)

Making use of precious archival footage of Erickson’s travels to India and Japan, the film also reveals how the architect was inspired by the essence of the East, bringing his influences to the landscape of the West, and successfully explores the relationship between his public buildings and private residential commissions. 

While the future of the Dyde House remains open to suggestions – one of which is as a writer’s residency – donations towards its preservation can be made via the University of Alberta. As Erickson’s former colleague Barry Johns, who appears in the film, said in 2016: 'It’s a treasure that’s just been discovered. If it were properly restored, it could become a pilgrimage location for architects from all over the world.'