Substance Over Spectacle: Contemporary Canadian Architecture


224 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55152-185-7
DDC 720'.971'07471133





Reviewed by James A. Love

James A. Love is a professor architecture and associate dean (Research
and Outreach) in the Faculty of Environmental Design and an adjunct
professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary. His
latest publication is Recommended Practice of


In 1986, Andrew Gruft, professor emeritus in the School of Architecture
at the University of British Columbia, curated an exhibition on Canadian
architecture. This volume catalogues the sequel that he mounted some two
decades later. In the foreword, he laments Canada’s paucity of public
debate on architecture in comparison with other regions (although
Barcelona is a severe yardstick with which to judge any other part of
the world). The selected projects are arrayed from the east to west
coasts, and include some two dozen practices.

As is usual for such volumes, the graphical presentation is strong.
Unfortunately, the text accompanying the entries is brief and mostly
descriptive, and offers little to help the lay reader appreciate the
particular merits of the buildings included in the exhibition. About one
quarter of the projects are large constructions in dense urban areas.

Complementing the catalogue of exhibited works are four essays by
Canadian scholars and practitioners. These essays take up the question
of Canadian identity in architecture. They will be helpful to the lay
reader interested in better understanding recent Canadian architecture.


Gruft, Andrew., “Substance Over Spectacle: Contemporary Canadian Architecture,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,