Photo of Peter Coffman

Peter Coffman

Associate Professor, History and Theory of Architecture (on sabbatical 2023-24)

Degrees:B.A. (University of Toronto), B.A.A. (Toronto Metropolitan University), M.A. (York University), Ph.D. (Queen’s University)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 8797
Office:404 St. Patrick's Building

A distant Gothic Cathedral is framed by trees.

Canterbury Cathedral.

I am an architectural historian whose fate was sealed many years ago when I caught my first glimpse of Canterbury Cathedral from a train window. My infatuation with the Middle Ages gradually expanded to include later re-inventions of medieval forms – particularly Canadian Gothic Revival architecture, which is now my main area of research. An overarching theme in my current work is the exploration of the many cultural and political meanings that have been attached to the Gothic style from the twelfth century to the present day.

I am also Past President of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, a scholarly society devoted to the study of all aspects of the built environment in Canada. We meet annually in diverse Canadian locations to share our research, and publish a journal (The Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada) that is the only academic periodical devoted to the study of Canadian architecture. I encourage all students interested in our built environment to become active in the Society.

In the History and Theory of Architecture (HTA) program at Carleton, we explore the history, meaning and social significance of the built environment, and how it both reflects and shapes human circumstances. We also study the theoretical foundations of architectural movements ranging from Antiquity to the present day. The interdisciplinary strength of Carleton University, plus the spectacular research resources of the City of Ottawa, make HTA an exciting place to be. You can check out our HTA Blog, which includes written contributions from faculty, students, as well as several podcasts.

Book cover showing a sinewy road across the face of a mountain.

Camino, by Peter Coffman

I have a diverse background and eclectic interests. I was a photographer in a previous (professional) life – indeed, I may be the only architectural historian ever to have won a music award for photography. Recent exhibitions have included The House the Spirit Builds at the Shenkman Arts Centre (Ottawa, 2022); Anglicana Tales, Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax, 2010); and Camino, ViewPoint Gallery (Halifax, 2009). My photographs have illustrated three recent books: The House the Spirit Builds (poems by Lorna Crozier, photographs done in collaboration with Diane Laundy, Douglas & McIntyre, 2019), Exploring the Capital (by Andrew Waldron, Figure.1 Publishing, 2017), and Camino (Wintergreen Studios Press, 2017), which I also wrote.

(Profile photograph by Joseph Szostak)

Teaching Awards

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award, Carleton University (2023)

Future Learning Innovation Fellow, Carleton University (2023)

Excellence in Blended and Online Teaching Award, Carleton University (2021)

Teaching Achievement Award, Carleton University (co-recipient with Michael Windover, 2019)

Selected Academic Publications:

Book cover showing Canadian architecture

“The ‘Englishness’ of Outport Gothic”, Lucie K Morisset, Ed., Architecture de l’identité : arts et patrimoine en hommage au professeur Luc Noppen, Montreal: Del Busso, pp 177-192 (2020)

Book cover showing medieval doorway

“Architecture, Photography and Nation-Building: Samuel McLaughlin and the Department of Public Works”, Jessica Mace, Ed., A Medieval Legacy: The ongoing life of forms in the built environment – Essays in honour of Malcolm Thurlby, Montreal: Patrimonium, pp 29-42 (2020)

Journal cover showing a partly demolished church.

“Requiem for All Saints, Granville Centre”, Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, Volume 43, Issue1, p. 7–16 (2018)

Book cover showing a Gothic arch in a church interior.

“Meanings of Gothic in Atlantic Canada”, Gothic Revival Worldwide: AWN Pugin’s Global Influence, KADOC Artes series, Leuven University Press, pp 64-75 (2017)

Book cover for Pierre du Prey Festschrift.

“The Gibbsian Tradition in Nova Scotia”, Tributes to Pierre du Prey: Architecture and the Classical Tradition, from Pliny to Posterity, London/Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers, pp 211-27 (2015)

Book cover showing an elaborate wooden churvh interior.

“The Introduction of Ecclesiology to Nova Scotia”, Studies in Victorian Architecture and Design Vol. 4: Ecclesiology Abroad, London: The Victorian Society, 78-93 (2012)

Book cover showing a wooden building in a remote outport by the sea.

Newfoundland Gothic, Québec: Éditions Multimondes (2008)

Opinion Pieces

New Château Laurier design is evidence of a system that failed, Ottawa Citizen, 2020

Château Laurier debacle exposes flaws in heritage regulations, Policy Options, 2019

The Château Laurier addition is genuinely incompatible. Here’s why, Ottawa Citizen, 2019

Notre-Dame’s rebuilding offers key lessons for Ottawa, Ottawa Citizen, 2019

Yes, we can successfully expand the Château Laurier – but only by respecting its basic values, Ottawa Citizen, 2016