Guest speakers on Canadian architecture

The former company town of Port Union, Newoundland, est. 1916. Photo: Jessica Mace

Canada: Buildings and Landscapes

We are excited to say that the study of Canadian architecture is back in a big way at U of T! This semester, a brand-new course, FAH 273 Canada: Buildings and Landscapes—taught by Professor Christy Anderson and Professor Joseph Clarke—is allowing undergraduate students to explore the history of Canadian architecture from various thematic perspectives. The course has featured several dynamic speakers in the past several weeks.

Here is a look at two of the guest talks so far:

Jessica Mace, PhD, and our very own Postdoctoral Fellow in Canadian Architecture and Landscapes at U of T, presented a talk on company towns, exploring a form of housing for working Canadians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which were pre-planned communities centred around a single industry (or company) in various locations across the country. Her talk traced the influences of the Garden City movement as well as several European and American communities that were built with utopian, idealized, and often paternalistic conceptions of healthy and safe housing, imbued with values of morality and good attitudes towards working. Dr. Mace also explored the impact of company towns on the built landscape of Canada, including the effects of rapid development, resource extraction, and industrial expansion. The talk closed by examining the life of company towns in the twenty-first century, exploring how some towns are abandoned, others are incorporated into the urban fabric around them, and how some operate as heritage spaces or are repurposed. 

Interested in learning more? Check out Dr. Mace’s recent book Identity on the land: Company towns in Canada (co-authored with Lucie K. Morisset). (Also available in French!)

Michelangelo Sabatino, PhD, Professor and Director of the PhD Programme at the Illinois Institute of Chicago (IIT), spoke about the dichotomy of “Canadian architecture” and “architecture in Canada.” His discussion traced the history of architecture in Canada, examining regionalism and how local conditions in different parts of the country provided different reactions to architecture, as well as the roles that transportation, advertising, and mass media had in the conception of buildings in Canada and worldwide. Professor Sabatino stressed the importance of moments in Canadian history, such as the Centennial and Expo ’67, as a key and powerful point of transition towards a new building practice across the country, citing the interest and investment of government resources as well as growing professionalism of architecture in Canada. The talk was helpful in framing the built environment in Canada in a multi-faceted way, encouraging students to ask questions about what constitutes a “Canadian” architecture, and whether or not the term is reductive describing the diverse architectural traditions within our borders.

Interested in learning more? Check out Professor Sabatino’s book, Canada: Modern architectures in history (co-authored with Rhodri Windsor Liscombe).

Stay tuned for more updates on this course and on future events!

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