Views: Carleton’s University Centre From Above (1963-2015)

Carleton's campus as it appeared in 2015. Image: Google Maps.
Carleton’s campus as it appeared in 2015. Image: Google Maps.

I’ve never hidden my love for the modernist campus of Carleton University. That its Rideau Campus was designed from the get-go as a modern departure from the Oxford-Lite or Harvard-Lite approach that most Canadian universities up to that point had taken was not only a breath of fresh air, but a bold and confident step in an Ottawa that was not always known for such things.1For an interesting history of Carleton, see H. Blair Neatby and Don McKeown. Creating Carleton: The Shaping of a University. Montréal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.

Porter Hall shortly after completion. Source: Carleton Archives and Research Collections, Public Information Fonds.
The Main Hall shortly after completion. It was renamed Porter Hall in 1979, shortly after the death of prominent sociologist and Carleton professor John Porter who was, most famously, author of The Vertical Mosaic. Source: Carleton Archives and Research Collections, Public Information Fonds.

One thing that has always stood out to me is the University Centre. When I first arrived at Carleton in 2000, the labyrinthine “Unicentre” had seen better days. The inventive and exciting design touches of its architect, Z. Matthew Stankiewicz, had largely been removed or left in a state of relative disrepair and a myriad of small, unsympathetic changes had been made in the ensuing decades. At least Porter Hall had not yet been converted into a lecture theatre and was still used for concerts and end-of-term exams.

As part of a larger project that I have been working on lately that is related to another part of campus, I came to be acquainted with the development of the building. I was always under the impression that Stankiewicz’ University Centre was an entirely new building. It turns out that this was not the case and his 1968 design actually integrated the existing University Commons building2Susan Wood. “Carleton’s union: Planned by students, for students,” (Special Supplement) The Carleton, March 8, 1968, p. 8. which was completed five years earlier, in 1963.3”Carleton University: Campus on the Move!” (Special Insert) Ottawa Journal, February 15, 1963, pp. 1-12. Its integration into the current complex is most visible from above.4I have made use of the geoOttawa drawing tool to give a sense of where the original 1963 structure lies in the current complex. It should not be considered to be 100% precise, however.

Notes   [ + ]

1. For an interesting history of Carleton, see H. Blair Neatby and Don McKeown. Creating Carleton: The Shaping of a University. Montréal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.
2. Susan Wood. “Carleton’s union: Planned by students, for students,” (Special Supplement) The Carleton, March 8, 1968, p. 8.
3. ”Carleton University: Campus on the Move!” (Special Insert) Ottawa Journal, February 15, 1963, pp. 1-12.
4. I have made use of the geoOttawa drawing tool to give a sense of where the original 1963 structure lies in the current complex. It should not be considered to be 100% precise, however.

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