John Bland's tenure as Director of the School lasted 31 years and throughout this period he occupied a preeminent position in Canadian architectural education. In fact, many of his students became heads of other Schools of Architecture, or architecture related faculties and departments not only in Canada, but also in the United State, England, Norway, Israel, Colombia and India. And many more were teachers at numerous universities throughout the world.
The orientation of the school during Bland's tenure could best be described as having been based on the modern movement's teaching of rationalism and functionalism, but without resorting to extreme doctrinaire positions. Perhaps one of Bland's most significant attributes was the ability to attract teachers to the School who were singularly capable, whether architects, historians or artists. A second equally important attribute was giving to his staff the freedom to teach what they believed in which of course, resulted in "dedicated" teaching.
In a paper delivered at a meeting of the Ontario Association of Architects (February, 1964), Bland confirmed that at McGill the "members of the architecture staff have been chosen for what they can offer the students in their own expert ways while following a briefly stated curriculum." At this meeting, he also expressed his disapproval of a "chorus line staff" all teaching the same architectural ideology since he felt that "students gain from lively diversity of opinion and thereby can more easily develop their own point of view." But more important, he feared that with the chorus line" approach the spectre of the whole staff getting out of date at one time was far more likely than with a diversified staff. In fact, Bland witnessed such an occurrence when he was a student of Traquair, Nobbs, and Turner.
During his tenure, Bland was also actively involved in the practice of architecture. The partnership Rother/Bland/Trudeau won first prize in a national competition for the design of the Ottawa City Hall (1957-59), and was responsible for the design of several large developments including the Jeanne Mance Housing Development in Montreal (1957-58) and the New Town of Port Cartier, Quebec (1958-59). After the death of Vincent Rother and the retirement of Charles Trudeau, Bland in subsequent years and under new partnerships with Roy LeMoyne (B.Arch.'51) and Anthony Shine (B.Arch.'53), and at various time with Gordon Edwards (B.Arch.'54) and Michel Lacroix (B.Arch.'63), all former students of his, designed major works such as McGill's Chancellor Day Hall ~965), the Labyrinth for Expo '67, the Library for the University of Windsor (1970), and Pollock Hall of the McGill Schulich School of Music (1973).
Bland served on the Council of the Province of Quebec Association of Architects from 1942 to 1954 and as President in 1953; he was a member of the Council of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada from 1950 to 1954. He was elected to the R.A.I.C. College of Fellows in 1954 and to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1967. John Bland also served on 5everal commissions appointed to safeguard the historical and cultural heritage of Canada, such as the Jacques Viger Commission of the City of Montreal, and was appointed a Member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Heritage of Quebec.
Bland is the co-author of several books on Architectural History: Housing and Community Planning (1944), University Housing in Canada (4966, co-authored with Norbert Schoenauer), and Three Centuries of Architecture in Canada (1971, co-authored with Pierre Mayrand). Bland contributed numerous articles in professional journals and co-authored several exemplary planning reports on Canadian cities, years before planning legislation was introduced.
Honours accorded to Professor Bland include the Medaille de Merite de l'A.A.P.Q. (1971), a Massey Medal for the Ottawa City Hall, an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Carleton University (1975), and the R.A.I.C. Gold Medal (1985).
In 1953, Bland was appointed to the Macdonald Chair in Architecture, a position he occupied until his retirement, and has been since 1979 Emeritus Professor. At present, he is the Honorary Curator of the Canadian Architecture Collection at McGill and, in the tradition of his predecessors, assembles new material for the expansion of the archives that are housed in the Nobbs Room of the University Library. The archives are made available to historians and researchers which resulted in several recent publications. Thus Bland's commitment is not only to safeguard an invaluable trust, but also to disseminate awareness and appreciation of Canada's building heritage. He continues to lecture in History of Canadian Architecture at the School of Architecture at McGill which he imbued over the years with a standard of excellence in architectural education that serves as a model to his successors.