In Memoriam: Bing Thom

Photo by Thomas Billingsley.
Photo by Thomas Billingsley.

We are deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of architect Bing Thom on Tuesday, October 4, 2016. Thom died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm, accompanied by spouse Bonnie Thom. He was 75. At the time, he was in Hong Kong working on the Xiqu Theatre for Performing Arts.

Bing Thom received a BA of Architecture in 1966 from the University of British Columbia and an MA of Architecture in 1970 from the University of California, Berkeley. Thom went to work for Japanese architect-urbanist Fumihiko Maki in 1971, returning to Canada in 1972 when he joined Arthur Erickson Architects and oversaw a number of high-profile projects in Canada and abroad.

In 1982, Bing Thom established his own firm, Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects with offices in Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Washington, DC. Originating from a dozen different countries, the thriving firm of 50 designs award-winning projects throughout the world.

 In 2010, Thom and his firm were awarded the RAIC’s Architectural Firm of the Year award, and in 2011, he was awarded the RAIC’s highest honour—the RAIC Gold Medal. A special issue of Canadian Architect documented his work to-date on the occasion of his receipt of the Gold Medal. “The work of few practitioners fulfills the spirit and intent of the RAIC Gold Medal as Bing Thom’s does,” the Gold Medal jury wrote. “It is generally understood that the Gold Medal should recognize and honour a life’s work: Work that is noteworthy, instructive, influential, and at its best extraordinary. Mr. Thom’s work addresses all of these interests.”

“Bing Thom was an internationally recognized leader in our profession,” said RAIC President Allan Teramura, FRAIC. “He was a mentor to many and a humane designer who believed in the importance of delight in architecture. His buildings are generous in their gift of public spaces, indoors and out. Bing leaves a legacy of buildings which bring grace to cities and campuses in Canada, the United States, and Hong Kong.” 

Bing Thom Architects received the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for Point Grey Road Condominiums and a Governor General’s Award of Merit for the False Creek Yacht Club, both in Vancouver. He was a Member of the Order of Canada and  a recipient of the Golden Jubilee Medal for outstanding service to his country. He holds honorary degrees from Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

Thom’s work earned him and his collaborators five AIBC Architectural Awards since 2011 for projects such as the Guildford Aquatic Centre, Surrey City Centre Library, the SAIT Parkade and the Tarrant County College – Trinity River East Campus.

“Bing Thom […] does not have a signature architectural style.” wrote Witold Rybczynski in his review of Trinity River East Campus. “Perhaps this is the lingering influence of his early mentor, Arthur Erickson, whose work also defied easy stylistic categorization. Some BTA projects dramatize their structure, some don’t; some emphasize details, some don’t; some have a memorable form, some don’t. The architect to whom Thom bears comparison is Renzo Piano—both men are builders whose designs emerge from construction as well as from program and site.”

“Bing Thom’s vision encouraged us all to consider how buildings affect the world beyond their walls. Thom was an ambassador for this vision, as well as a true gentleman and generous mentor. He will be deeply missed by the architectural community, especially in British Columbia, which is home to so many of Thom’s award-winning works,” says AIBC President Darryl Condon, FRAIC.