McGill University Gymnasium, Preliminary Study(3/1924)
Pine Avenue West, Montreal, QC, Canada
Educational, Gymnasium [basement, 5 floors]

Client: McGill University
Architect: W.S. Maxwell & G.M. Pitts

Description: After the death of Edward Maxwell in 1923, his younger brother William formed a partnership with Mr. Gordon MacLeod Pitts, a young architect who had graduated from McGill University. Pitts had experience working with Maxwell brothers since he was hired by them to supervise the construction of Montreal High School in 1911. McGill University contacted Maxwell and Pitts for the construction of a new gymnasium building on Pine Avenue. The design proposal submitted was planned on the sloping site facing Pine Avenue. The central block, called the ‘Administration Block,’ was flanked by the ‘Gymnasium Block’ to its west and the ‘Arena’ to its east-side. All three buildings were designed respecting the slope of the site by creating a step down skyline in the elevation. The Gymnasium Block was divided into five equal bays featuring arched windows at the ground and second floor level. The entrance for this block at the centre was decorated with sculpted lampposts on both sides and ornamented by a frieze on the top. The Administration Block, which descended in height, was distinguished by its three bays and its window styles. Contrary to the Gymnasium Block, this block featured rectangular windows with a side main entrance. The entrance to this block was more elaborate in details with rich motifs and insignia. The large gable roof on the Arena was evident from Pine Avenue and was accessed by two large entrances on either side of the block. The Administration Block was composed of six floors with the main entrance on the first floor and adopted centre-corridor planning at all the floor levels. The general and private office spaces occupied the side of the corridor facing Pine Avenue. The other side of the corridor was designed as an open seating gallery space overlooking the swimming pool at the rear. Two staircases were designed on either sides of the central corridor next to the vestibule. These staircases ran through all the floors and provided access to the Gymnasium Block at the third and fourth floor levels. The second and third floor was mainly designed to accentuate office space, women’s showers, and locker rooms. The fourth and fifth floors were designed as the extension of Gymnasium Blocks, which served for special exercises and instruction chambers. A large hipped roof covered the large swimming pool, which occupied the rear of the Administration Block, with a hipped skylight at the centre. The Gymnasium Block was three storeys in height and overlooked the Administration Block and Arena. The ground and the second floors of the block were two storeys high giving the massive volume to the block. The ground floor, called the ‘Armory Floor’ was entered through the central entrance door from the street side and gave access to the Administration Block to its right and storage areas at the rear. The first floor contained mainly men’s showers, locker rooms and assembly hall. The top floor was designed for a gymnasium. This floor featured an open gallery, which was accessed from the fifth floor level of Administration Block. The staircase in the Administration Block accessed both the upper floors of the Gymnasium Block. The Arena was the largest of the three blocks, designed for sports activities. The block featured a large oval-shaped ice hockey rink for winter and multi-purpose activities during summer seasons. The seating encompassing the central floor was designed to accommodate 9,980 people at a time which allocated 5,480 seats for Box & Reserved areas, 3,000 seats for Rush Space, and 1,500 in the Standing Room. The arena was accessed by two large openings on either side of the block from Pine Avenue. Apart from the ice rink, the Arena also contained clubrooms, skating rooms, bowling alleys and a curling rink. Squash courts were designed at the rear of the swimming pool next to the Arena. It was two stories in height and featured a skylight. Due to unknown reasons, McGill University did not adopt the proposal submitted by Maxwell and Pitts.

Holdings: Gymnasium (basement, 5 floors)
30 Drawings: 27 blueprints; 3 sepia
30 Development drawings: perspective, elevation, sections, doors
Comment: A proposal for the same gymnasium by A.J.C. Paine is included.

Comments: A proposal for the same gymnasium by A.J.C. Paine is included.

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