History by Norbert Schoenauer


University education of architects in North America began during the late 1860's and represented a new approach to professional training.

William Baston Rogers, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, established the first School of Architecture. From the beginning, when M.I.T.'s charter was granted in 1860, Rogers had included architecture in his plans for technical higher education, first, because he modeled M.I.T. on the German Polytechnic of Karlsruhe, and second, because, having taught for seventeen years at Jefferson's Charlottesville campus, he was appreciative of architecture. Rogers chose William Ware, a former student in Richard Morris Hunt's atelier, to head the new School. Ware began his teaching in 1868 after having studied European architectural education for a couple of years.

The second school of architecture was established at the University of Illinois in 1867, and instruction commenced in January 1870. The first teacher at this school was James Bellangee who was a graduate in science and had but briefly worked in an architectural office in Chicago and, one and a half years later, the Swedish architect Harald M. Hansen, who had studied for two years at the BauAkademie in Berlin, was appointed to lead the school.

Cornell University established its School of Architecture in 1871. This third school was headed by Charles Babcock, a pupil and son-in-law of British trained Richard Upjohn.

During the following two decades, seven other new schools of architecture were founded in the U.S.A.: Syracuse University was fourth; University of Pennsylvania, fifth; University of Michigan, sixth; Columbia University, seventh; Columbia (later George Washington) University, eighth: Armour now Illinois) Institute of Technology, ninth; and Harvard University, tenth.' McGill University's School of Architecture was established one year after Harvard's in 1896.

Prior to the introduction of formal architectural education in the United States and Canada, the conventional method was the office training system whereby students worked usually for a small wage, or no wage at all, in an architect's office as pupils to gain experience. This training was often augmented by attendance at courses offered by technical schools or institutes in the evening.2 A second and more elitist path was to attend the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris which became fashionable in North America in the second half of the 19th century after Richard Morris Hunt returned to New York from Paris and opened an office (1856) organizing it a year later as an atelier after the Beaux-Arts model.

Both traditional methods of architectural training relied on individual tutoring and therefore proved inadequate in producing a sufficient number of trained architects for the increased opportunities offered by a growing economy and expanding society. Moreover, members of the organized professional architects associations became aware of the necessity of an increased science content in architectural education, a need that could obviously best be met in a formal educational setting. Hence, conditions were appropriate in the last decades of the 19th century for the establishment of university programs providing a third path for architectural education.

In 1890 the Province of Quebec Association of Architects obtained a provincial charter and adopted a constitution requiring, for the first time, compulsory architectural examination of candidates seeking membership in the professional association. This requirement necessitated a more systematic education in architecture and, in the absence of such opportunities locally, many young Canadians aspiring to be architects "went to col1eges in the States to obtain what was difficult to obtain satisfactorily in their own country." Several members of this new Association headquartered in Montreal "realized that if adequate teaching could be obtained in Montreal it would be of a great value to the profession, the community and the Dominion. Representations were made from time to time by the Architects' Association to the governors of McGill to take the matter into their earnest consideration." Lack of funds rather than disinterest on the part of the university postponed the inauguration of a School of Architecture until 1896 when through the benefactions of W.C. Macdonald education in Architecture commenced at McGill.

Before the establishment of formal architectural education at McGill, lectures had been given periodically by local practising architects in some of McGill's four affiliated religious colleges, and it is probable that the content of these lectures was restricted to the history and design of church architecture. For example, A.C. Hutchison, a distinguished Montreal architect, gave a course in Ecclesiastical Architecture at the Presbyterian College in the fall term of 1893. The college's journal recorded that "the popularity and growing fascination of these lectures was sufficient proof that they are enjoyed."" A similar course was also given at the Diocesan Theological College by Andrew Taylor, another notable architect.

The transition from conventional to collegiate education was gradual. While formal university education as we know it today came to dominate the training of architectural students during the 20th century, initially it merely complemented conventional methods of office and atelier training, and, in fact, several early collegiate schools were under the direction of men who had received their architectural training "on-the-job" or at the Beaux-Arts, sometimes at both. And, the latter was the case with the McGill School of Architecture.