INTERVIEW WITH NORBERT SCHOENAUER(1923-2001)
Montreal, August 15, 1997
Daniella Rohan (DR) interviewed Professor Emeritus Norbert Schoenauer
(NS), from the McGill School of Architecture, about Ramsay Traquair. This
interview was conducted for the Canadian Architecture Collection and its
special project for Industry Canada entitled Ramsay Traquair: The Architectural
Heritage of Quebec.
Professor Schoenauer, can you describe the influence
that Ramsay Heatly Traquair, a doctor, and Phoebe Anna Moss, an
artist, had on their eldest son, Ramsay?
I think that there is a general consensus that
architecture is both art and science. Hence Traquair's home environment
must have been nearly ideal in terms of stimulation for a future
architect because his father was not only an MD, but he was a zoologist,
a paleontologist and a curator of the National Museum of Edinburgh.
His mother, being an artist, and a very well known artist at that,
must have created a very good environment for him in which to develop.
Another aspect is that when Ramsay Traquair decided to become an
architect, the city of Edinburgh was probably a very exciting place.
Patrick Geddes was active in the old town, restoring old buildings
and introducing new life to the old town, which was getting more
decrepit. In fact, the first Director of the School of Architecture,
Stewart H. Capper, was also involved with the restoration of these
buildings. In new construction, for example, Geddes helped finance
Ramsay Garden. Edinburgh was clearly a centre for education and
art, in contrast to Glasgow, which was really the centre for industrial
development. So I presume that in general, the environment of Ramsay
Traquair's youth must have been very stimulating.
Can you comment on Traquair's early studies concerning
Byzantine, Greek, and Roman religious architecture, and how they
influenced his first commissions?
I really doubt whether his Byzantine church studies
influenced his architectural work later on. Academically, it was
very, very important. After all, the first articles that he published
were on Greece and on Constantinople, but I think the influence
as such, of Byzantine architecture, was not as important as his
contact with the Arts and Crafts movement in Edinburgh. I must say
that when I went to Greece, a couple of graduate students waited
for me in Athens and promised to show me the country. After they
showed me the Acropolis and Athens, they asked me where I would
like to go. I suggested that we should go to Hydra. We went down
to the port and the Flying Dolphin that was going to Hydra,
but the station was in Monemvasia. I remember that Monemvasia was
like the Gibraltar of Greece, so I suggested to the two students,
why don't we investigate? So we went there and it was a very exciting
place, not yet discovered by tourists. When I came back to Montreal,
I looked up more information about Monemvasia. I discovered that
Ramsay Traqauir was already there 50 years prior to me! Obviously
he did not take the Flying Dolphin and the easy way. Not
only did he visit Monemvasia, but also he measured up all the churches
there. This is the type of person that we dealt with - he was really
Please elaborate on how the study of archaeology
shaped Traquair's view and understanding of architecture, and eventually
his interest in historic preservation?
Well another important person during his youth
was a man called Anderson. Robert Rowen Anderson was his name. He
not only established the School of Applied Art in Edinburgh, but
he also institutionalized the National Arts Survey. That meant he
gave scholarships to different students to measure up all the pre-18th
century historic buildings of Scotland. Traquair was one of the
recipients of the scholarship while he was working for Capper. After
Capper left Edinburgh (to assume the Directorship of McGill School
of Architecture.), Traquair spent a year measuring up old buildings.
I think that turned him on and it provided a good background and
experience, which influenced very much his later involvement in
Canada. Now I presume in Edinburgh at that time, you also had a
certain amount of regionalism emphasized. A man by the name of Gerald
Brown suggested that since art is a manifestation of society, every
particular society develops or evolves a certain art expression.
Scotland was very much involved in discovering and investigating
its own tradition, and Ramsay Traquair was part of that movement.
Fiona Sinclair's Scotstyle: 150 Years of Scottish
Architecture, gives a good survey of Scottish architecture at
that time. One of the few buildings Ramsay Traquair designed, the
First Church of Christ Scientist, in Inverleith Terrace, Edinburgh
is reviewed. To what extent can we say Percy Nobbs influenced Traquair
as an architect and administrator in Canada?
Although Percy Nobbs came to Canada before Ramsay
Traquair, and was the second Director of the School of Architecture
(Traquair the third), he was in fact one year younger than Traquair.
That means that they were contemporaries. We do know that Ramsay
Traquair finished his exams for an associated membership of the
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1899, Percy Nobbs
one year later in 1900, and a third friend of theirs, Cecil Burgess,
also finished in 1900. The three of them went to northern Italy
on a sketching trip and spent a couple of months there visiting
Venice, Verona, Florence, Milan, and Ravenna. After they came back,
Nobbs stayed in London and worked for the London County Council
(LCC). Ramsay Traquair went back to Edinburgh and worked for different
architects: first George Washington Brown and then for Robert Lorimer,
where Nobbs worked before. They both attended the School of Applied
Art the same year, established by Anderson. That means that they
must have known each other. So I think one influenced the other
- they had similar exposures at the same time - and maybe a better
word would be that they complimented each other rather than influenced
each other. Presumably, Phoebe Traquair had an influence on Percy
Nobbs, unless it is a pure coincidence that Nobbs also called his
daughter Phoebe. Phoebe Traquair was a very important artist of
that period in Edinburgh and she lived there a long time. She lived
to be 84 years old. I can't really tell you who influenced whom,
but I am certain that Percy Nobbs and Ramsay Traquair grew up together
and they were exposed to similar influences. It was probably mutual.
Now their temperament was different. I don't know whether you want
to discuss that aspect. I never met Ramsay Traquair. I met Percy
Percy Nobbs struck me as a very serious and talented
designer. He was a very practical man. He knew several crafts. He
was able to tell a bricklayer how to lay bricks, he was a good draughtsman,
and he was also an athlete, an outdoorsman. He won a silver Olympic
medal in fencing. Nobbs was a fisherman - he designed his own lures
for fly-fishing. He liked soldiering, without being forced into
it. He volunteered in WWI to go overseas and serve his country.
On the other hand, Traquair was more of an academic type, rather
than the very much-involved man in doing crafts. He was also an
excellent researcher, perhaps I would say more of a dreamer. In
contrast to Nobbs, who could be a bit dour, Ramsay Traquair must
have been more of the opposite. I mean, he was shielding his emotions
but he was a warm-hearted person. So I think the two of them complimented
each other, especially with respect to running the School. Nobbs
was much more interested in his architectural practice and was very
impatient as an administrator. On the other hand, Ramsay Traquair
felt very comfortable with his position as Director of the School
and didn't resent administration. Nobbs resigned the Directorship
of the School of Architecture because the principal complained that
he spent too much time practicing and not giving enough to the school.
So when they appointed the new Director, they made it clear to the
person "to devote full time to teaching" which Ramsay Traquair did,
but not Nobbs.
Professor Schoenauer, can you describe the atmosphere
at the School of Architecture at McGill during Ramsay Traquair's
tenure, given that most of the staff was British, namely Scottish,
and the School was relatively small?
Firstly, it must be remembered that the school
was very small. Apart from the war years, WWI and WWII, you had
very few students graduating each year, no more than two or three.
In general, the range of graduates between the two World Wars was
between 4 and 10 students. That doesn't mean, of course, that lectures
were given to ten students only. Lectures were given every second
year. Also, we should remember that many, many people that were
apprenticing with architects would opt to listen in on lectures
at McGill in order to facilitate studying for their admission exams.
Another aspect that is mostly forgotten today is
that McGill University was a place where people passed their exams
for admission to the RIBA, from the Caribbean Islands, South America,
the United States. People would come to McGill to pass their exams
because it was cheaper to come to McGill than to go to Great Britain,
especially before the jet age. I remember supervising candidates
for the RIBA exams in the early 1960s. The School may have been
smaller, but it was an active place because you had the influence
of other students or apprentices. From the Arts Faculty, people
took Freehand Drawing and so forth. The student body, being relatively
smaller, was a very friendly place and obviously everybody knew
each other and liked each other. This was certainly true up to the
From the 1930s on, the modern movement became more
and more popular. The older members of the School started to be
discredited, and you have to remember that they were all about the
same age. They all grew old at the same time and there was very
little influx of new people. I would say that the School of Architecture
senior members, [namely] Nobbs, Traquair and Turner, were all about
the same age. Then you had another generation of architects, but
they were about 10 of 15 years younger. All of them were educated
in Great Britain. W.E. Careless for example, also contributed in
measuring French Canadian architecture and he was known as an expert.
There was another man named Frank B. Chambers, a historian and politician.
I think his architectural studies originated in London. I recently
picked up his book called The History of Taste and found
it interesting that here is a person who wrote a book on the theory
and history of taste in architecture, from antiquity all the way
up to the 1920s. The book was published in 1932 by Columbia University
Press. The reason I found it so fascinating was that I admired their
[the architects of the time] educational background. They taught
in Latin, in old Greek, they were fully familiar with all the literature
of antiquity, the Renaissance and medieval periods - their educational
background was truly impressive. When I was reading the story and
the background of the evolution of taste, I didn't find a single
statement that I would have disagreed with. Today there is a great
emphasis placed on theory. Chambers quoted Hegel and Nietzche all
the time. This person [Chambers] taught at the School of Architecture
in the 1920s and he was there up to when John Bland took over, and
then he left.
What are some of the differences between Nobbs
and Traquair, and the way they helped develop the School?
I think it goes back again to their personalities,
their characters. Nobbs was a doer, a practical person. He was very
much professional and when he arrived at McGill the first thing
he did was to split the School into two halves. One was the B.Arch.
stream and the other was B.Sc. in Architectural Engineering. That
meant that the admissions were much easier for architects coming
to the B.Arch. stream because they did not have to have a science
background. Many subjects in science were eliminated in the B.Arch.
program and replaced by art subjects given by the Faculty of Arts.
The courses were a 4-year program. The first year was introductory,
really grade thirteen. So architecturally speaking, there were only
three-year courses. Very shortly after Ramsay Traquair's arrival,
he extended the course to a five year program. The first year still
being introductory, but he added a full year to it. He introduced
a program that had seven parts to it. Now I don't know whether these
seven different parts related to the seven Lamps of Architecture
from [John] Ruskin, or the seven notches on the rings that are given
to architecture graduates. At any rate, the main subject was Design,
which was given by Percy Nobbs. Then there was the second group
which included Aesthetics, the third group pertained to History,
the fourth group was Hygiene and Surveying. Construction, Architectural
Practice, and Drawing rounded out the seven categories. Traquair,
although he did not introduce it first, solidified the Sketching
School experience. Traquair, I presume, emphasized more the academic
aspect of the School, whereas Nobbs adhered more to the traditional
way of educating architects, mainly through apprenticeship, working
in offices, because after all, that's how he had become an architect.
What fundamental changes did Traquair make to
the School of Architecture's curriculum, such as the addition and
elimination of certain topics, and the extension of the overall
program to five years.
Later it was extended to six years during John
Bland's tenure and first year was still introductory - that was
six years at the School. After the quiet revolution in the 1960s,
when they introduced the CEGEP programs, they took two years away
from the six and that is why we are left with four years. Now the
first year was really just grade 13 but then they removed another
year. I find this to be a contradiction. Whereas knowledge expanded
tremendously in the field of architecture, the course itself was
reduced by one year, because CEGEP could never have done the same
what we did at that time.
Now the present curriculum extends to four years,
and may be extended further. Are four years enough or should the
program be longer?
Well, the only advantage that I see with the
breaking up into CEGEP and then the B.Sc., and maybe a Masters program
for a professional degree, is that students can leave the School
at different points and still have the documentation that they did
something or that they accomplished something. You see, with the
six-year program we always had this dilemma - that if somebody failed
after five years, he didn't have any papers at all and it was unfair.
After all, he had passed four years. So for that reason, I am supportive
How much of the changes Traquair made are felt
today, and what is the attitude toward them?
I think Traquair continued the same policy that
Nobbs established, and Design was indeed the most important aspect
of studio training, of which Nobbs was the leader. With the exception
of the introductory course, all the years were taught by Nobbs.
That importance continued throughout. With Design being a 6-credit
course, students spent most time with it and the awards for graduates
were always based primarily on design. I mean, if you are not very
good in engineering you could still advance, but in design, if you
have a poor grade, then it is tough. I find it wrong that this is
so because there are so many students that graduated from McGill
who are not very good in design but made a mark in other fields.
I remember one student who failed a design project, but later on
became a leader of computer-aided design, and he got a Ph.D. from
MIT. So I think it is a pity that we emphasize only one aspect when
we know very well that out in the market, there are some people
who have to write specifications, there are some people who have
to supervise jobs, and be administrators. We somehow place more
importance on design. Now I don't want to discredit the importance
of design because, first of all, I think the School should make
clear to their students if they have no design ability, they should
know that! On the other hand, one should emphasize other aspects
of architecture too, because as I said it is not only art, it is
I think this whole notion of talent is exaggerated
because I think everybody can learn to play the piano very well
if they really exercise and work hard at it. Now they may never
become a Chopin or a Liszt, that's for sure, but that's where talent
comes in. On the other hand, for the man on the street, they would
be damn good piano player, and I would say the same thing for drawing.
Drawing can be learned. Now, if they become a Leonardo De Vinci,
now that's another story. Anyone can learn to draw very well. You
have to have talent.
What type of practitioners and/or academics did
Ramsay Traquair bring in as staff or lectures while he was Director?
The majority of them had a British background.
[Edmond] Dyonnet, born in France and educated in Italy, taught here
at the School. With respect to language, Traquair probably spoke
French and a little bit of German as well. Capper, for example,
spoke several languages, and he was very good in French when he
came to Montreal. After all he studied at the Beaux-Arts, so he
lived in Paris, and he even spoke Spanish and Portuguese. During
the 19th century, most of these people had a very good education.
Scotsmen, especially, had a French connection - I suppose they had
a common enemy! I feel that sometimes our School was accused of
being inbred. They didn't, in fact, appoint teachers that graduated
from McGill but those with a very similar background because they
didn't trust anything else.
The differences between Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau,
and the modern movement were not as exaggerated at that time; the
borderlines were not as clear-cut as they are now. Many things that
are attributed only to the modern world now were actually traditions
from the Arts and Crafts movement. For example, hygiene, lots of
air, bright rooms, etc. These first emerged in Great Britain because
during the Industrial Revolution, housing conditions and health
deteriorated there first. The first negative manifestations were
also in Great Britain, hence, the first reactions. The aforementioned
people, such as Nobbs, [Philip] Turner, Traquair, Careless, and
Chambers, all had British background. They all subscribed, by and
large, to the same values. In the book that I recently read, Chambers
refers to the Arts and Crafts theoretician William Richard Lethaby
in the preface - he was the theoretician of the Arts and Crafts
movement. Chambers also dedicated the book to Professor Pike, who
ran the school for the LCC but was also Professor of Architecture
in London. I suppose one could say that there were interactions.
Certainly Capper knew Traquair, Traquair worked for him, Traquair
and Nobbs went to the same school for a while, they traveled together
with Burgess, and had similar values. Burgess also went to supervise
Nobbs' job in Edmonton. There he started a new school but it didn't
succeed because it was a one-man school.
McGill and the School of Architecture enjoyed a
great reputation in Canada. One should remember that at that time,
Montreal was the metropolis of Canada and subsequent schools were
started throughout with the help of the people from McGill, especially
during John Bland's tenure. For instance, UBC was established after
John Bland wrote the recommendation and then supplied the man in
charge. Halifax was started by Douglas Shadbolt. Traquair, as an
academic, made sure that that would remain. Now when the modern
movement gained popularity, some of the older teachers were reluctant
to give up their old values. I think that Percy Nobbs, more than
Traquair, was very critical of the modern movement. He called the
modernists accommodation engineers, that they accommodated their
clients' wishes and did not have any taste. This type of reaction
was very common with the Arts and Crafts. [Charles F.A.] Voysey
was heralded as the first modernist and when someone mentioned that
he was protesting and said "but I never designed a building with
a flat roof". He had already very plain facades and ribbon windows,
but the last thing he wanted to be associated with was the modern
movement. Similar reactions occurred here in Montreal. These movements
were much closer to each other than people were willing to admit.
If I may make an analogy in the political sphere: Communists and
Social Democrats were much greater enemies than Social Democrats
were with Capitalists because they knew who each was because of
their milieu. They were already too close to each other, competing
with each other. The Communists and the Social Democrats feared
Communists, not Capitalist because they were not trustworthy, they
are too close for comfort in their ideas. Similarly, I would suggests
that if an Arts and Crafts person and a modernist were to emphasize
what they had in common, it would far outweigh what differences
How did McGill's School of Architecture compare
to other schools at the time?
I think if one considers a school of architecture
as having a course in design, then of course the School of Architecture
at McGill is the oldest one. Although Toronto's School of Architecture
was older, it didn't teach design. It was more of an applied art
school. McGill on the other hand, from the very outset, was an architectural
school in the modern and contemporary sense because it taught all
the science courses, including design. Architecture was an extension
of applied science, not engineering. The biggest influence we had
was actually our school of graduates, and that continued to be so.
If you look at the years, not only before WWI, but after the two
World Wars, we had beautiful architecture produced by graduates
of McGill University. Many of them still worked in Arts and Crafts
idiom, which by that particular time, was no longer in vogue in
Great Britain or in Europe. The Priests' (Sulpician) Farm order,
designed by Shorey Ritchie, was a McGill graduate and was introduced
to the Arts and Crafts here. Leslie Perry, did some beautiful architecture
also in that idiom. Morely Luke, P.R. Wilson, [Harold Lea] Fetherstonaugh,
and [Alexander T.G.] Durnford. They were really very well educated
architects, with design you can really admire even today. Every
time I look at some of their work, I really admire their sensitivity
in details and the beautiful structures they designed. Westmount
is full of these buildings, including Redpath Crescent.
[Traquair believed] the architect's education
required a partnership between university and office. How is the
university continuing this partnership between education and industry
This is a very hard question because the whole
profession of architecture underwent incredible changes. When Traquair
and Nobbs became architects at that time, everyone worked in architects'
offices, doing apprenticeships, and because of the expansion of
science and knowledge in general, they thought it necessary to be
complimented by university education. Now I think that linkages
between university and the professional side as such is not very
strong as it used to be. I can see a certain parallel with the Faculty
of Engineering. The Faculty of Engineering does not educate any
longer electrical engineers that would be able to help an architect
in wiring their buildings. Mechanical engineers do not educate engineers
who would be able to design a central heating system for an apartment
building. They don't exist anymore. The mechanical engineer knows
how to design a jet engine, knows about quantum mechanics, and computers.
In a way, they became much more scientific. They took over some
aspects that before belonged to the domain of science. Architecture
itself, underwent a similar problem where certain things were emphasized
in architecture that had very little to do with practice. Building
construction and financing of buildings is no longer emphasized
in the school. When graduates go out into the profession, they have
a good general background, but they have no practical experience.
McGill is better than most. Before graduates are given the B.Arch
degree, they must prove that they worked six months for an architect.
Other universities don't even have that. In my opinion, less co-operation
exists between the profession and the schools of architecture, than
during Traquair's time.
I should have mentioned that Waterloo has the work-study
program, and also Halifax wants or plans to have it. Obviously it
is an advantage if the profession participates in education. I presume,
that during John Bland's years, many architects participated in
the educational process, especially design crits were done by professionals.
Ray Affleck was a regular critic at the School of Architecture,
Victor Prus, all the great architects were there all the time. Now
I see it less so, but maybe it is my perspective because one gets
older and draws parallels.
Well, not really, the industry is struggling
and the direct interaction between the two has lessened. The firms
themselves are struggling so they can't afford to hire students
One could mention the following: when I started
to teach here at the School of Architecture, it was mandatory that
you were a member of the architectural association. It was inconceivable
that people who teach architecture weren't members of the profession.
At present, fifty percent of our teachers are not members of the
profession. That is proof in itself that the linkage is not there.
During the Traquair years, the School of Architecture at McGill
was accredited by the British Institute, and thereby automatically
accredited by France. The exams were held at McGill, but today we
lost all that. So the connection that existed before no longer exists.
Is there some way we can recuperate the connection,
or do you see that in the future, it getting better, or getting
worse before it gets better?
Why would you give up an acquired right that
you already had? Why would you give that up? I would not have given
that up if I had had the choice. Some of the schools had problems
with accreditation that's why they introduced a Canadian-made system.
McGill never had that type of a problem. In fact, we have more of
a problem now with the Canadian system than we had before.
Traquair felt very strongly about the study of
old work in order to understand the fundamentals of architecture
and to design new worthwhile buildings. "Beside the architecture
of Europe it cannot take a prominent place, yet it is our own, it
is of the soil and from it I believe our modern Canadian architecture
might well be developed, certainly in domestic and church work".
How is this way of thinking carried on in the School?
To some degree, regionalism was de-emphasized by
the modern movement, because of the international style. In a sense
it says it all, doesn't it - international? It means that buildings
could be designed irrelevant of site. Climactic forces and cultural
aspects influenced design. I am very much a product of Scandinavian
education because I spent my formative years there. What I admired
about Scandinavia was that they never had an architectural movement
and swallowed it.how does the saying go? "Hook, line and sinker."
They always modified it. For example, in Denmark they would say
the modern movement is very nice but we shouldn't really design
flat roofs because our climate is too severe. Let me tell you the
climate of Denmark is not half as severe as in Canada and yet all
roofs in Canada are flat. Perhaps they didn't know how to do a good
flat roof with the drainage in the middle of the building. They
tried to do it from the outside which, of course, does not work
- it freezes. They were so accustomed to a sloped roof that it was
symbolic as a shelter and this also applies, in fact, to the Arts
and Crafts architects in Great Britain. You didn't see a flat roof
there. If you look at a Christmas card and snowy weather is portrayed,
could you imagine a Mies van der Rohe building? It doesn't represent
home. Unless you have a sloped roof with snow on it, a chimney with
smoke coming out, little glazed windows frosted at the edges, and
a Christmas tree inside the house - that portrays some sort of home.
The modern international style, though it may have been good for
an office building, didn't have that homeliness for residential
If I may go back to your question, I think that
Traquair probably meant that the French Canadian home was not a
copy of a Norman nor a Bretagne house, but evolved from the roots
here. The floor level was raised four feet above the ground grade
because that's how high the snow was. It had galleries around it
to protect it from the summer heat but the winter sun was allowed
to penetrate. So many years of experience taught people that this
particular building works very well as a home. Therefore, why would
you want to discard it and exchange it for something new? You can
maybe modify it, add [to] it, evolve it, but don't deny your roots.
I think this is what Traquair meant. People should be proud of what
they accomplished on their own. You cannot really import something
from Italy and be successful in this climate.
Traquair described in his article "Cottages of
Old Quebec" the evolution of the Quebec-style cottage: first it
was influenced by France, then by Great Britain, and finally it
evolved for the local climate. He described the components: the
simple rectangular structure; the steep roof, which sometimes evolved
into a bell-cast, and eventually it went so far out that it needed
support, therefore the introduction of a verandah. It was quite
well-suited to this climate, but not in England where its damp.
No one would actually be on a verandah in England. Here we have
terribly bright sun as well as a lot of snow, so its interesting
the way he comments on this. I also find it interesting, if I may
comment on my own question, that he believed Canadian architecture
to evolve from "in situ" but yet he did believe in travelling scholarships
so that the better students can go and experience the European architecture
firsthand, to learn from the old style in order to create a new
style when they came back home. How do you feel about the travelling
Obviously, I feel it to be very important to
travel in this world especially at a time when the world is shrinking.
I'll bring up another problem. In my own work, I try to be as global
as possible. Inasmuch as I felt that when I got my architectural
education, my education was purely European. I had absolutely no
idea what they built in China, India, Africa, nor in America. When
I started to write about the history of housing, I couldn't find
any work that was really global in that sense. Yet, I could not
understand architecture without going back to its roots. Maybe I
am simplistic, but I feel that if man believed God to be in his
own image, then if they built their house for God they would really
start out from their own home. Therefore, I think that a Greek temple
is based on a rudimentary Greek house. I could tell you the same
thing about the dogons in Africa, the Japanese, the Chinese or anywhere
in the world. For that reason I felt housing to be so important.
In order to have that exposure you must travel. I didn't see the
whole world but I benefited a lot from travel. I think more architects
really should travel.
While you travel, you take photographs and document
Whether it is Europe that is the most important,
I don't know. I would say in terms of numbers, China may be more
important today, or India with over a billion people. From a western
point of view and western values, Europe is a very good example
of what architecture brought about. That is only one interpretation
of architecture. Traquair, like Capper, was very broadminded so
presumably he supported scholarships in order to expose students
to different values.
It's a good way to document different styles
and learn from a different culture. This brings me to my final question.
A little known fact is that the historic photographs in the Traquair
Archive, which is housed at the Canadian Architecture Collection,
originally came from the late Charles T. Hart, which Traquair purchased
for the Blackader Library in 1918. Ramsay Traquair then added to
that collection and now they total close to 8,000 photographs of
architectural buildings, some of the historic buildings now demolished.
What then would you say is Ramsay Traquair's legacy to McGill and
Firstly, every morning when I enter the McGill
campus, I see the flag on top of the Arts Building. That flag was
designed by Traquair. Secondly, he awakened the interest in French
Canadian architecture. Not only to know about French Canadian architecture
but also its new application. I don't know whether you notice, but
if you walk on Atwater, on the left hand side there is a beautiful
French Canadian residential building designed for an anglophone.
If you go to the top of the mountain, there are several beautiful
French-Canadian buildings, at least in spirit. I'm not suggesting
every detail was mimicked on these buildings, but it was Ramsay
Traquair who convinced people (his graduates) that this is beautiful
architecture. Also mansions in Senneville and on Gouin Boulevard
were done in the manoir style, so to speak. That is Traquair's doing.
Now it is true that Nobbs was also fond of that and he designed
in Dorval or Pointe-Claire French Canadian-type houses with a gable
The mere fact that Traquair received an honorary
doctorate from the University of Montreal tells us something. It's
a rare occasion that one university gives doctorates to professors
in the same field from the other university. In this instance, Traquair
did get one. So it was a major contribution. I don't know whether
it is appropriate for me to say this but when I wrote my Master's
thesis, I wrote it on French-Canadian architecture in the Richelieu
Valley. When I applied to become a member of the PQAA (Province
of Quebec Architects' Association), somebody on the committee asked
me what I wrote my thesis about and I replied French-Canadian Architecture.
Although this person was a francophone, he was not impressed at
all by that fact. He thought that it was really not very important
architecture. Today obviously he would not be able to state that,
but I am going back to 1962 to be precise, and at that time there
were still people who thought that it was not true architecture.
Traquair did convince people that it was an important heritage.
Thirdly, at the School Traquair institutionalized, in a sense, the
Sketching School. I think these three aspects, apart from the Collection,
are major contributions of his.
Thank you very much, Professor Schoenauer.