By Peter Coffman
I’m on sabbatical for the 2023/24 academic year, and I’m hitting the road in search of Canadian architecture. And I need your help! I need suggestions about where to go, and what to see.
The end game is the creation of a new, third-year course on Canadian architecture. But I don’t want this course to be a parade of Canadian architecture’s ‘greatest hits’. I’m not going to attempt to tell ‘the story of Canadian architecture’. I want to assemble a collage and collision of many stories; a collection of narratives that, taken together, might encapsulate the complex histories and peoples of this place we now call Canada.
The course will be organized around a series of themes, rather than a chronological timeline. The themes will include issues like power, climate, memory, governance, faith, materials, and work.
To explore these themes, I’m looking for architecture from the whole of our history and geography. I want buildings that show who people are, and what they aspire to be. I want architecture that shows how we’ve lived, and how we’ve made a living. I want the architecture of those whose people have been here for thousands of years, and those who have just stepped off the boat. I want to look at where people have lived, where they gathered, and where they worshipped. I’m seeking the architecture of the powerful and of the humble; of those who possess much and of the dispossessed. I’m looking for big-city icons, and small-town Main Streets.
The accompanying photos might give you some sense of the range of architecture I want to explore. A couple are famous, most are not; some are private, others public; some are built to be beautiful, some are utilitarian, others aim for both. They are in big cities, small towns, and deep in the countryside. They are schools, government buildings, houses, centres of industry, places of worship, libraries, community centres and workplaces.
Can you think of somewhere – any built place in Canada – that should be part of this course? A building, a town, a monument, or a public space that tells a powerful story?
Please tell me where to go!