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Book explores Canada’s defining architecture

Patricia Williams
Book explores Canada’s defining architecture

A groundbreaking book dealing with modern and contemporary architecture in Canada is now available for sale, following the official launch at the recent Festival of Architecture in Toronto.

Co-published by Canadian Architect magazine and Princeton Architectural Press, Canadian Modern Architecture, 1967 to the Present, is a comprehensive review of major work in this country.

The 544-page book includes 15 original essays and 500 photographs and drawings. The 50-year retrospective begins with the nation’s centennial and Expo 67 in Montreal.

It covers the defining of national institutions and movements, how Canadian architects interpreted major external trends, regional and indigenous architectural tendencies, and the influence of architects in Canada’s three largest cities — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Essays were written by architectural critics and scholars from across the country.

The book was co-edited by Canadian Architect editor Elsa Lam and architectural historian Graham Livesey, a professor at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at the University of Calgary and a regional correspondent for the magazine.

“We see this as a gift to the architectural profession,” Lam said during a plenary session Oct. 28 at the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s (RAIC) architecture festival.

Lam, who has a doctorate in architecture history from Columbia University, said the project has been in the works for almost five years.

She said she hopes that the book will attract both a national and international audience. It is the first time Canadian Architect has co-published a book.

Funding was provided by the Canada Council for the Arts. Additional support, for either the book or an upcoming series of launch events, came in part from the Ontario Association of Architects, RAIC, construction giant PCL and ArchitectsAlliance.

“This (the book’s publication) is the culmination of years of work,” Livesey said, noting that the idea was initially sparked “by a realization that we were coming up to the 60th anniversary of the magazine.”

Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.

“As we drilled down into the subject, we thought 1967 was a better watershed moment. But that doesn’t deny the fact that there are very important buildings that were produced in Canada prior to 1967.”

Once topic areas had been determined, various writers were approached across the country to contribute chapters.

“The book became a kind of compendium of the work of the different writers that we invited to join the project,” said Livesey, who was elected an RAIC Fellow in March.

“We were very happy that everyone we asked accepted and that we were able to get the right people to write about the specific topics.”

In a blurb, Phyllis Lambert, founding director, emeritus of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, said the “fascinating and much-needed” compendium will certainly be welcome universally and particularly in Canada.

At the RAIC plenary session, three of the book’s contributors outlined highlights of their respective chapters.

Steve Mannell, director of the College of Sustainability at Dalhousie University focused on environmental architecture; Montreal architecture critic Odile Henault examined First Nations architecture; and Lola Sheppard, co-founder of Lateral Office and an associate professor at the University of Waterloo reviewed architecture in the North.

The book is now available at booksellers across North America as well as from online retailers McNally Robinson, Indigo and Amazon.

Princeton Architectural Press is considered a world leader in the realm of architecture and design publishing.

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