The School

Program history

The School of Architecture at McGill University was founded in 1896, when a chair in architecture was established in the Faculty of Applied Science (today, the Faculty of Engineering) by Sir William C. Macdonald. At that time, the program leading to the professional degree was four years and the School operated in the Macdonald Engineering Building under the leadership of its first Director, Stewart Henbest Capper.

The School of Architecture is now one of seven units reporting to the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. This includes five engineering departments - Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Mining and Materials Engineering - and two Schools - the School of Urban Planning and the School of Architecture. Since 1987, the Schools of Architecture and Urban Planning have been housed in the Macdonald-Harrington Building, which was constructed to accommodate the Departments of Chemistry and Mining by architect Sir Andrew Taylor in 1896, and renovated for the two Schools by architects Ray Affleck and Arcop Associates.


Highlights of the School's history

1896: A chair in architecture is established in the Faculty of Applied Science.

1896: Professor Stewart Henbest Capper becomes Director.

1899: First graduating class, three students.

1903: Scottish-born architect Professor Percy Nobbs accepts the William C. Macdonald Chair in Architecture.

1903: Professor Percy Nobbs becomes Director.

1913: Professor Ramsay Traquair becomes Director.

1921: Sketching school goes to Quebec City.

1939: Professor Philip J. Turner becomes Acting Director.

1941: Professor John Bland becomes Director.

1941: A new curriculum is adopted by Professor John Bland after his appointment to the directorship of the School. In preparation for an anticipated influx of young veterans seeking architectural training after World War II, the old curriculum, based on the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement, was replaced by a Modernism curriculum.

1943: Catherine Chard Wisnicki graduates as the program’s first woman.

1945: A new five year program is adopted.

1946: Professor Harold Spence-Sales joins the faculty. In anticipation of the important role for architects during postwar reconstruction, the scope of architectural training is broadened to include town planning; Bland and Spence-Sales establish the first Canadian graduate program in planning.

1947: Professor Ramsay Traquair publishes The Old Architecture of Quebec.

1949: Architectural education is extended by one year, to six years.

1950: Arthur Erickson graduates.

1961: The M.Arch program is expanded to include Architectural Design (John Bland) in addition to Planning (Harold Spence-Sales).

1961: Moshe Safdie’s thesis proposing Habitat ‘67.

1962: To give equal importance to design and building construction in the upper years, studio courses include the teaching of both disciplines and are named Design and Construction (D&C).

1962: An additional graduate program, Housing Design, is introduced by Professors Jonas Lehrman and Norbert Schoenauer.

1965: Professor Peter Collins publishes Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture 1750-1950.

1967: Faculty members Professors Pieter Sijpkes and Radoslav Zuk participate in the design of Expo 67.

1970: After Spence-Sales retires, the graduate planning program of the School of Architecture is reorganised by Professor David Farley, resulting in the establishment of an independent School of Urban Planning.

1971: The Minimum Cost Housing Program is introduced by Professor Alvaro Ortega to study and research housing conditions in developing countries.

1972: Professor Norbert Schoenauer becomes Director.

1975: Professor Derek Drummond becomes Director.

1981: Death of Professor Peter Collins.

1985: Professor Bruce Anderson becomes Director.

1986:  Professor Witold Rybczynski publishes Home: A Short History of an Idea.

1987: A new graduate program, History and Theory of Architecture, is established by Professor Alberto Pérez-Gómez when he joins the faculty.

1987: The School of Architecture moves into its new home, the Macdonald-Harrington Building.

1989: The Housing Design graduate program is reorganised by Professors Witold Rybczynski and Avi Friedman, and renamed The Affordable Homes Program.

1989: The Ph.D. in Architecture is introduced as an ad hoc program.

1990: Professor Derek Drummond again becomes Director.

1990: An innovative model house, The Grow Home, is constructed on campus.

1993: A graduate program in housing, Domestic Environments, is established by Professor Annmarie Adams, who joined the faculty in 1990.

1996: Professor David Covo becomes Director.

1996:  The School celebrates its Centennial with the planting of a special garden designed by Professor John Schreiber.

1997: The Ph.D. in Architecture Program is approved by the Minister of Education.

1997: Lily Chi is the first Ph.D. graduate.

1999: In May, the University Senate approves the proposal for the replacement of the B.Arch. with the M.Arch. as the first professional degree in Architecture. The new program retains the B.Sc.(Arch.) degree, but replaces the two-semester 34-credit B.Arch. with a three-semester 45-credit professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch.I) that incorporates new courses in Design Research and Methodology, Architectural Criticism, Professional Practice, and Building Science, and increases the credit weight of the design thesis from six to eight.

2000: In December, the first class to graduate with the new professional M.Arch I degree completes all course requirements.

2001: First class to graduate with the M.Arch. I (Professional) degree.

2003: Philanthropist David J. Azrieli endows an annual lecture at the School.

2007: Professor Michael Jemtrud becomes Director.

2007: Associate Directors are first appointed: Professors Ricardo Castro (Professional) and Annmarie Adams (Post-professional).

2008: FARMM opens.

2008: 60-credit professional Masters option is approved.

2011: Professor Annmarie Adams becomes Director.

2015: Professor Martin Bressani becomes Director.

2016: Professor Howard Davies becomes the Clifford C.F. Wong Professor of Practice.

2016/17: The School is awarded two Canada Research Chairs for Professors David Theodore (2017) and Ipek Tureli (2016).

2017: Through a generous gift, the School of Architecture is renamed the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture.

Donate to the school: