A lifelong connection and lasting legacy

Published: 17 February 2023

After graduating from McGill in 1970, Bruce Allan embarked on a long, successful career as a Montreal-based architect, working on projects around the world.

One of the constants in his life was a love of his alma mater.

Allan, BArch’70, BSc (Arch)’70, who passed away on October 29, 2022, served as a guest critic, and then guest lecturer at McGill’s Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, delivering unforgettable lectures in the Professional Practice course. He also led the fundraising efforts of his Class of ’70 in support of McGill.

In the final year of his life, Allan established an endowed fellowship at the School through a generous $400,000 gift. The E. Bruce Allan Fellowship will be awarded annually in perpetuity to a McGill architecture student at the graduate level, giving preference to those who are from or who are studying the Canadian North and Indigenous Communities.

“I am so grateful for the connections I’ve made over the years,” Allan told McGill when he called to arrange the Fellowship. “I’ve always wanted to show my appreciation for the education I received at McGill. And I want to play my part in contributing to the future McGill, and to the School of Architecture.”

From Expo ’67 to architect and partner at ARCOP

Allan was 17 when he arrived at McGill’s School of Architecture in 1964. A kid from suburban Beloeil on Montreal’s South Shore, he would come to the city for dentist appointments and Christmas shopping. In 1966, he spent over an hour getting from Beloeil to the ARCOP architecture firm in Montreal’s west end, where he’d applied to be a stagière (intern). Almost half of his pay went to public transit, but what an experience it turned out to be!

It was a fortuitous time to be an architecture student in Montreal.

“That summer, I was tasked with putting together a mock-up of the Man the Producer pavilion for Expo ’67,” Allan said in a recording for Mémoires des Montréalais in 2017, reflecting on the experience of working on the project for the world’s fair held in Montreal that year. “Back then, there were no digital 3D renditions. I was working with sheets of carton and the model ended up being eight feet long and four feet high. There were no straight lines in its construction, which made it entirely different from anything I’d studied. It was a structure that would have no heat, that was not built to last. Its location would be in a public space, surrounded by all kinds of other new architecture.

“It was remarkable that I didn’t have to go anywhere else in the world to be able to see so many ideas that had been developed from their beginnings as models – like the one I was working on – to buildings that started appearing on the city’s skyline the following spring, buildings I saw as I crossed the Victoria Bridge.” For Allan, the experience started a bank of innovative ideas that collected in his head and that he drew upon for designs throughout his career.

Allan enjoyed a thriving career as an architect and partner at ARCOP (now Architecture49). He worked on projects around the world – in Asia, the Middle East and North America, including Iqualuit in Canada’s far north.

In 1997, Allan was the lead architect designer for the Nunavut Legislative Assembly. Throughout the project, he encouraged the use of themes inside and out that would evoke a traditional sense of community, while striving for a shape that was technically suitable for the harsh Arctic environment.

Allan consulted with Iqaluit architect Keith Irving from the outset of the project. When the building was unveiled, it was said to create a space that would distinguish itself with its respect for the majority Inuit culture of Nunavut.

David Covo, Bruce’s contemporary as well as Associate Professor and Past Director (1996-2007) of the School of Architecture, recalls how Allan’s Professional Practice course lectures were meticulously prepared and beautifully illustrated. Allan shared his passion and delight with students as well has his optimism about their futures.

Allan joined the Faculty of Engineering’s Faculty Advancement Board in 2014 and served on the board representing the School of Architecture until just prior to his death. He contacted McGill shortly after he learned his cancer had returned. He was grateful for his McGill connections, and wanted to make a gift to celebrate what he felt was the unique character of McGill, and the teaching he received that he so greatly respected.

“In all the best senses of the word,” says David Theodore, the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture’s present Director, “Bruce was a friend. He’s been our advocate and champion, linking the School to the Faculty, to our alums, and to the architectural profession. When we sat down to talk about a donation, he spoke proudly of his firm’s work on the Legislative Building of Nunavut in Iqaluit, which is how we arrived at the idea to support students studying the north or from the north. Bruce’s donation helps us keep alive the honourable values he lived by.”

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