Architecture and the Canadian Fabric
Architecture has a powerful role in nation building and identity formation. Buildings and monuments not only constitute the built fabric of society, they reflect the intersection of culture, politics, economics, and aesthetics as these forces are played out in distinct social settings and distinct times.
This extraordinary anthology traces the interaction between culture and politics as reflected in Canadian architecture and the infrastructure of ordinary life, from the first contacts between indigenous peoples and European missionaries to the construction of big-box shopping centres in postmodern cities. Whether focusing on Jesuit perceptions of New France, the construction of Toronto’s St. James Cathedral or Canada’s first Parliament, Brutalism in Canadian architecture, or the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and Arthur Erickson, these essays showcase ways of thinking about the built environment that extend beyond considerations of authorship and style to address the influence of cultural politics and insights from race and gender studies and from postcolonial and spatial theory.
By coupling a national focus with a wide historical scope, Architecture and the Canadian Fabric transforms how we see the role of architecture and in doing so radically questions how we continue to live in, interact with, and interpret the fabricated world.
Architecture and the Canadian Fabric is essential reading not only for students and enthusiasts of Canadian architecture and history but also for students and practitioners in geography and urban planning.
Broad in scope and filled with both insight and intriguing fact…this collection serves to entice a more sustained consideration of the relation between the messy realities of social practice and the production of this thing called architecture.
The essays greatly advance the field of architectural history in Canada. Given the breadth on display, Canadian architects and historians surely will find items of interest and pertinence to their practice.
According to the editor’s conclusion, this study should “reinforce attention to Canadian architectural patrimony and demonstrate its significance for the international discourse and practice of design”. This work does succeed in doing so and also adds significantly to the body of literature on Canadian architecture. It is well researched and thoroughly documented. The analytical principles guiding the publication could be applied to other works, including further studies by this group of authors, covering more aspects of the architectural heritage of Canada.
The sum of the parts in this volume is much greater than the whole and makes our understanding of Canadian architecture, and indeed more general questions of methodology and interpretation in the discipline of architectural history, manifestly clear and intellectually absorbing. This is a significant contribution to an important field of study that deserves our utmost attention.
The finely interwoven essays that make up Architecture and the Canadian Fabric cover the country from coast to coast to coast, from early European contact to the present, and from the wide-ranging perspective of seventeen international contributors. Yet the introduction, conclusion, and prefaces to the individual parts provide readers a compass to navigate material as rich and varied as the long-overlooked built environment of Canada herself. Canadian architectural history has come of age.
A major collective work, this rich and multi-faceted constellation of recent scholarship makes an important contribution to knowledge in a variety of fields, focusing on, but not limited to, the colonial and modern architectural histories of Canada.
Defining Canadian architecture involves elaborating not just a narrative of various buildings, styles, and architects, but also a narrative of how history is viewed and constructed. This valuable work covers a wide spectrum from the French missionaries to bungalows to Arthur Erickson and illuminates the changing discourse on the nature of identity. The book is essential not just for Canadian design but puts into a wider context the changing nature of historical discourse in the early twenty-first century.
Rhodri Windsor Liscombe is an associate dean of graduate studies and a professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia.
Contributors: Geoffrey Carr, Richard Cavell, Marc Grignon, Laura Hourston Hanks, Réjean Legault, Judi Loach, Barry Magrill, Alan Marcus, Justin McGrail, Michael McMordie, Daniel Millette, Lucie Morisset, Nicholas Olsberg, Christopher Thomas, Michael Windover, and Sharon Vattay.
Introduction: Writing into Canadian Architectural History / Rhodri Windsor Liscombe
Part 1: Architectural Culture in French Canada and Before
1 First Impressions: How French Jesuits Framed Canada / Judi Loach
2 Visibility, Symbolic Landscape, and Power: Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin’s View of Quebec City in 1688 / Marc Grignon
Part 2: Upper Canadian Architecture
3 The Expansion of Religious Institution and Ontario’s Economy, 1849-74: A Case Study of the Construction of Toronto’s St. James Cathedral / Barry Magrill
4 “For the benefit of the inhabitants”: The Urban Market and City Planning in Toronto / Sharon Vattay
Part 3: Building the Confederation
5 Shifting Soil: Agency and Building Type in Narratives of Canada’s “First” Parliament / Christopher Thomas
6 Stitching Vancouver’s New Clothes: The World Building, Confederation, and the Making of Place / Geoffrey Carr
7 Digging in the Gardens: Unearthing the Experience of Modernity in Interwar Toronto / Michael Windover
Part 4: Reconstructing Canada
8 A Modern Heritage House of Memories: The Quebec Bungalow / Lucie K. Morisset
9 Place with No Dawn: A Town’s Evolution and Erskine’s Arctic Utopia / Alan Marcus
Part 5: Styling Modern Nationhood
10 The Idea of Brutalism in Canadian Architecture / Réjean Legault
11 Nation, City, Place: Rethinking Nationalism at the Canadian Museum of Civilization / Laura Hourston Hanks
Part 6: Fabricating Canadian Spaces in the Late/Postmodern Era
12 From Earth City to Global Village: McLuhan, Media, and the Cosmopolis / Richard Cavell
13 Big-Box Land: New Retail Format Architecture and Consumption in Canada / Justin McGrail
14 Archi-tizing: Architecture, Advertising, and the Commodification of Urban Community / Rhodri Windsor Liscombe
Part 7: Identities of Canadian Architecture
15 “Canada's Greatest Architect” / Nicholas Olsberg
16 A Question of Identity / Michael McMordie
17 Memory, the Architecture of First Nations, and the Problem with History / Daniel M. Millette
Conclusion: Future Writing on Canadian Architectural History / Rhodri Windsor Liscombe
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