Contemporary Canadian Architecture: The Mainstream and Beyond


190 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88902-588-6




Reviewed by Kenneth M. Glazier

Kenneth M. Glazier was Chief Librarian Emeritus at the University of Calgary, Alberta.


Imagine planning a trip across Canada with one purpose in mind: to visit the principal cities and concentrate on the sites of contemporary Canadian architecture. This would be the book to take along. It was prepared by two architects, both graduates of the University of Toronto School of Architecture and both practising in that city and writing or editing architectural journals.

Start the trip in Halifax and wander down to the waterfront to a historic district that is one of the last remnants of the city’s early and prosperous beginnings. The waterfront restoration, completed in 1981, effectively retains the mood of the past with a few new buildings.

With a quick hop to Montreal there is much to see, first at the Expo 67 site with geodesic dome by Buckminster Fuller and Habitat by Moshe Safdie. In 1976 the Olympic Stadium was the centre of world attention, even without the completion of the retractable roof as designed by Roger Taillibert of Paris. On to Ottawa: unfortunately, much of the material is devoted to designs submitted for the National Gallery.

Toronto has much to see, but the attention is focused on the Eaton Centre, a bold venture for a retail store, and the Harbourfront — 91 acres of land and water lots where old warehouses have been restored and new ones added, along with promenades along the water’s edge. The dramatic downtown office towers are also featured, including the Toronto-Dominion Bank buildings, which led the way in the development of downtown Toronto.

Two buildings are featured in Winnipeg — St. Boniface Cathedral and the University of Winnipeg. Calgary, along with its office tower boom, developed a new pedestrian system known as Plus 15, whose main feature is a network of bridges from one tower to another; the networking is required of all new downtown buildings. Edmonton is noted for its Citadel Theatre, opened in 1976.

Vancouver is the residence of Arthur Erickson, a Canadian architect known around the world for his creative work. Three of his buildings (Simon Fraser University in the suburb of Burnaby, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the Robson Square and Law Courts) have changed the cultural climate of this beautiful city.

Considerable text is devoted to comments on various buildings and the “philosophy” of architecture. A bibliography, footnotes, and an index, when added to the many photographs, make this publication a valuable addition to works on Canadian architecture.


Bernstein, William, and Ruth Cawker, “Contemporary Canadian Architecture: The Mainstream and Beyond,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,