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Legacy of Turner

Philip Turner

Philip Turner succeeded Traquair as acting director, a position that he held only for two years (1939-1941). Philip John Turner was born in Stowmarket, Suffolk, in 1876. His family was large, and Turner shared the attention of his parents with many sisters and brothers. After completing his secondary education at Framlingham College in Suffolk, proceeded to study architecture at the A.A. school in London. He was articled to Mr. John Corder at Ipswich and elected an Associate of the R.I.B.A. in 1901. Turner, like Nobbs, was also a fine draughtsman whose numerous measured drawings were published as supplements to contemporary' journals under his nom de plume, Renrut.

Turner emigrated to Canada in 1906 in the company of another architect, Albert James Hazelgrove (later a prominent Ottawa architect,) and began a private architectural practice in Montreal the following year. Shortly after his arrival in Canada, he entered an Ice Palace Competition and won the first prize with his proposal. Thus, during his first winter in Canada, he saw the realization of his castle for "Our Lady of the Snows" as a focal point of the Winter Carnival celebrations.

In June 1910, he married Adeline Peddar from England. Bv this time, he not only had a good practice, but had also been appointed to lecture on Building Construction at the McGill School of Architecture. The scope of his teaching assignment was subsequently enlarged to include Materials of Construction, Professional Practice and Specifications. In addition, he was appointed Special Lecturer on Library Buildings (1926) in the McGill Library School, the latter function retained past his retirement from the School of Architecture. He was appointed Professor in 1933.

Turner was an accomplished architect. Apart from many fine residences, his works also include St. Phillip's Church in Montreal West, the Y.M.C.A. Chapel on Drummond Street, the Children's Chapel at the Cathedral, banks and commercial buildings in Montreal as well as the rebuilding of the Westmount Public Library. He was very active in the professional architectural associations serving for many years on the councils of both the P.Q.A.A. and R.A.I.C., also serving on the latter as a representative of the R.I.B.A. He became the President of the P.Q.A.A. in 1933 and received the Gold Medal of the Province of Quebec Association of Architects in 1941. He was elected a Fellow of the R.I.B.A. and Senior Fellow of the R.A.I.C. Turner was a shy man with a retiring manner. He was a conscientious teacher who lectured and wrote on subjects that he painstakingly researched. He was frequently asked to lecture on English Architecture at various public functions of social groups not only in Montreal, but throughout the Province of Quebec. His lectures were engaging and radiated his love and enthusiasm for traditional English Architecture. 5everal of his articles were published in Canadian periodicals, such as The Canadian Geographic, The Montreal Churchman and, of course, the R.A.I.C. Journal.

Turner became acting director of the School at a time when student enrollment was decreasing drastically in the wake of the depression years and the outbreak of the Second World War. These events coupled with the retirement of Senior Professors Traquair and Nobbs placed McGill's School of Architecture in a vulnerable position and for a while Principal Lewis Williams Douglas (1938-39) contemplated phasing out architectural education at McGill.

A number of young architects, George F. Auld (B.Arch.'33); Richard E. Bolton (MIT'29); F. Roscoe Chaffey (U. of Manitoba'24); Richard Eve (B.Arch.'31); Harry' Mayerovitch (B.Arch.'33); J. Campbell Merrett (E.Arch.'3i); and Robert Montgomery (B.Arch.'31): sent a memorandum on January 10, 1938 to Principal Douglas of the University and Dean Ernest Brown of the Faculty of Applied Science. After expressing their alarm about the rumour which suggested that "owing to the low revenue from fees as against the relatively high expenditure on salaries, the necessity of closing the School entirely may have to be considered." Several suggestions for the improvement of architectural education at McGill, were submitted in this document. Among the criticisms were listed the "out-of-dateness" of some courses, the "doubtful value" of the School's museum filled with antiques instead of the display of contemporary materials and building methods, the absence of courses in "Regional Planning," "Town Planning," and "Housing," as well as the lack of encouragement in "self-expression and original thought." This document also contained two suggestions, namely', the establishment of an "Advisory Committee of leading architects and designers," and the admission of women to the School both of which were implemented shortly thereafter.

Turner fought the threat of the closing of the School with all his strength and mustered the support of several distinguished Montreal architects to prevent it from happening. With their help and that of the newly appointed principal F. Cyril James (1939-1962), Turner, and his young Executive Secretary, John Bland, prevailed.

To ensure the continuity of architectural education at McGill, an Advisory Committee on the School of Architecture was established in 1939. On the committee, three distinguished architects, E.I. Barott, H.L. Fetherstonhaugh (B.Arch.'09) and J.C. McDougal (B.Sc.Arch.'09, B.Arch. '10), represented the profession, while Turner and Nobbs represented the School.

Under Turner's tenure as acting director of the School, the door to coed education in Architecture was opened, a no mean feat in the days of a male dominated Engineering Faculty, and in light of the fact that alterations had to be made to the engineering building in order to provide washrooms for female students. At first, the curriculum of the School remained unchanged. Under Turner, the teaching load had to be redistributed after the retirement of Traquair and Nobbs. Design teaching was assigned to Fetherstonhaugh, History of Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Architecture to Chambers and Modern Architecture to Bland; Chambers also taught Theory of Planning, Architectural Drawing I and Modelling, while Bland also gave Elements of Architecture and Architectural Drawing II. Turner retained his two building construction courses as well as Building Materials and Professional Practice. P. Roy Wilson (B.Arch. '24), who had been a demonstrator in previous years, became a Special Lecturer in 1940 and taught Metal Work, Colour Decoration and Freehand Drawing.

Turner's health was already frail when he became Acting Director of the School, and the following year it deteriorated to such a degree that he entrusted the running of the School to his Executive Secretary, John Bland. In fact, Turner's tenure as a director can be viewed as a transitional period ushering in a new era and a third phase of McGill's School of Architecture since, in 1940, the architectural design program was reorganized by Turner and Bland.

First year was an introductory year. It was devoted to the teaching of drawing, both scale representations of objects in plan, section and elevation, and freehand drawing in pencil, charcoal and watercolour to study light, shadow and form. Simple methods of building construction were also taught in addition to the general study of mathematics, physics, mechanics, surveying and elementary graphical statics. In second year, design studio instruction embraced the planning of simple living and working places. Structural design was introduced at this point.

Third year building design involved site analysis with emphasis upon "Environment, Plan, Mass and Surface" and resulted in the production of quarter scale working drawings accompanied by full size detail drawings.

The fourth year design assignment was a large building with a complicated circulation problem and complex structural system. Detailed studies of building materials and construction methods was part of one assignment.

During fifth year, studio work entailed "group planning" in the first term, and individual thesis projects in the second. Professional practice, specifications and general office administration rounded off the final year architectural courses.

Turner retired in 1941. "The war worried him." He was hurt to see the destruction caused by the air raids and he was particularly concerned about the safety of his sisters who lived in an 'East Coast Town' (in England.) All this and his unfortunate illness weakened him". ..and two years after his retirement and after a lengthy illness confining him to a hospital, he died of a heart attack.

In his memory, the Philip J. Turner Prize was established by A.B. Darbyson (B.Arch.'15) and presented to the student in the School obtaining the highest standing in Design and Construction II.