Guest Blogger: Tony Gkotsis

Our second guest blog post comes courtesy of Tony Gkotsis, School of Urban and Regional Planning graduate student and member of the Campus Master Plan Advisory Committee and Project Team. Tony’s provided us with a great overview of Queen’s campus plans over the years — illustrating the issues these master plans have responded to and the mark they’ve left behind. 

“Over the course of the last year I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Campus Master Plan process as a member of the Campus Master Plan Advisory Committee and as a member of the University Project Team. As a student in the School of Urban and Regional Planning my involvement in this project has been a rewarding learning experience. Recently, I have been spending time exploring in the University archives and with the help of the Archivists have uncovered a series of Campus Plans stretching back to the 1920s.

Although these plans are much less comprehensive in nature than recent plans that have been created for the University since 1994, they provide insight into issues related to both short and long term growth of the University. At their most basic form these plans were an exercise in planning the physical expansion of Queen’s University. At their best, these plans reinforced the important elements of the Campus and strived to create new special places for future generations of student’s faculty and staff. Queen’s has a long tradition of creating campus plans. Although, we do not possess complete versions of all these plans, we do have enough information to give a glimpse into some of the planning ideas of the past. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the highlights from these plans.

1920 Sheppard & Calvin Plan

Figure 1: Bishop-Barker 1919 Aerial photograph of Queen’s University.  Queen’s University Archives, V28-Gen-17.1

Figure 1: Bishop-Barker 1919 Aerial photograph of Queen’s University. Queen’s University Archives, V28-Gen-17.1


Architects Sheppard & Calvin were engaged by Queen’s University to locate and design Douglas Library (and later Ban Righ Hall). In 1920 the architects were asked to prepare a Plan for the future grouping of buildings at the University. Of special concern at the time was the proper development of the “North Campus”. This aerial photograph, (Figure 1) taken by Bishop-Barker Co. in 1919 shows the state of the Campus at this time. Buildings had already begun to appear in the northwest portion of the campus as well as the associated quadrangle. However, the northeast portion of the campus was filled in by a series of arenas and sheds. At the same time plans were underway to construct Richardson Memorial Stadium in the western portion of the campus across from Victoria School (current location of Tyndal Field).

Figure 2: Sheppard & Calvin, Proposed Grouping of Future Buildings Scheme B 1920.  Queen’s University Archives, V36.5.

Figure 2: Sheppard & Calvin, Proposed Grouping of Future Buildings Scheme B 1920. Queen’s University Archives, V36.5.

In Response Sheppard & Calvin produced two schemes for the Proposed Grouping of Future Buildings. Scheme B (Figure 2) appears to have most influenced the growth of Queen’s. Short and medium term recommendations of this plan include the sighting of Ban Righ Hall (at its present location); the creation of two groupings of buildings in the northern portion of the campus as well as two formalized quadrangles. This was to be achieved by the relocation of arenas from the northeast portion of the campus, placing them adjacent to Richardson Stadium to create an athletic campus. In the long term, this plan set the stage for future academic buildings crossing University Avenue. Overall, this plan sought to recreate “special” places on campus through the replication and reinforcement of existing patterns of development.

1945 The Todd Plan
In 1944 noted Canadian landscape architect and town planner Frederick Todd was engaged by the University to create a long and short term plan for the University as well as a landscape plan. Todd was trained in Fredrick Law Olmsted’s firm, becoming Canada’s first professional landscape architect when he in turn established his own firm in Montreal.

Figure 3: 1947 aerial photograph of Queen’s University, Queen’s University Archives, V28-Gen-99.

Figure 3: 1947 aerial photograph of Queen’s University, Queen’s University Archives, V28-Gen-99.

While, Todd’s plan has not been located to date, we do have excerpts from the plan as it was presented to the Board of Trustees in 1945. Figure 3, is an aerial view of the campus from 1947. Todd’s recommendations included: the siting of men’s residences at the Leonard field site (he is also likely responsible for the general siting of the buildings and the interior open space we know today), as well as a road centred on Ontario Hall to Alfred Street leading to the residences; a new administration building (Richardson Hall) and student union building (became Ellis Hall instead) located on the corners of that roadway and University Avenue. Although the roadway never materialized the location of the two buildings in relation to Ontario Hall followed Todd’s recommendations.

Frederick Todd also suggested the location of McLaughlin Hall as a terminating vista for University Avenue foreseeing a street lined with impressive University buildings terminating at that point. Unfortunately the University could not obtain the land it needed to center McLaughlin Hall on University Avenue, the result being that the building cut off views of Lake Ontario and at the same time never achieved Todd’s vision as an alternative to a view of the water (which wasn’t highly prized in those days). In the long term Mr. Todd also reiterated the need to relocate the arena in the north east corner of the campus to the west of Richardson Stadium to create an athletic campus while at the same time opening up the interior of the campus for open space.

1955 Culham’s Vison
In 1955 Queen’s University continued its practice of hiring notable Canadian landscape architects to produce plans for the University. Like Todd, Gordon Culham was also trained by the Olmsted firm. He, along with Frederick Todd was one of the founders of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, becoming the organizations first president. Unfortunately, similar to Todd’s plan, Culham’s plan (if it was completed) has not been located. However, a preliminary report to the Building Committee by Culham indicates areas of concern and preliminary observations.

Culham recognized that buildings at Queen’s University, like many other universities in North America faced both the street and the interior of the campus. This feature of North American Universities is what distinguishes them from their European counterparts that are typically cloistered. However, his immediate concern was that while the University did a good job of addressing the street side of the buildings it had ignored the spaces on the inward facing sides. These spaces had become crowded by buildings and parking alike. Similar to arguments made by Shepard and Calvin as well as Todd, Culham argued that the arena and obsolete residences in the northeast corner should be demolished and replaced with a new academic building at the corner of Union and Arch St. This would provide the University with much needed academic space in the core of the campus and provide an opportunity to create a new interior space. Culham also suggested the closing of lower Alfred St. beside Richardson Stadium and the siting of new buildings adjacent to the Stadium. Culham argued that the University needed to develop a parking strategy to protect open spaces. Furthermore, he recognized the need to find answers to the following questions:

• What are the limitations to the physical size of the University?
• Should buildings within faculties continue to be in close proximity to each other or should they be broken up into smaller groups?
• What are the space needs for new or expanding faculties and departments?
• How important is the separation of academic and non-academic activities?
• How can we better connect the campus, open spaces and the lake?
• Is it better to place modern buildings within the “old campus” or should entirely new sites be selected?
• When is it appropriate to demolish obsolete buildings? What is the historical value of those buildings?
• How do we accommodate the automobile on campus?

1961, Barott, Marshall, Merret & Barott

Figure 4: 1961 Ultimate Campus Plan, Long Term Planning Committee Minutes, May 1961, Queen’s University Archives.

Figure 4: 1961 Ultimate Campus Plan, Long Term Planning Committee Minutes, May 1961, Queen’s University Archives.

In 1961 the architectural firm of Barott, Marshall, Merret & Barott produced a campus plan for Queen’s University. The Barott Plan responded to questions posed by Culham in a way that was very much a product of its time. The plan called for the University to eventually obtain all properties within the university precinct not owned by the hospital. Parking lots were to be established on the periphery of the campus; residences were to be sited looking over the waterfront where stately homes were located and traffic on Union St. was to be diverted to Clergy St (Figure 4).
On initial observation, many of the recommendations made by this plan can be considered reasonable responses to issues of expansion and increased traffic. However, this plan did not consider the broader context of the University within the City. This plan would create barriers between the University and its surroundings. In essence, turning the University’s back on the City.

Queen’s University is what Robert Stern refers to as an “embedded” campus. An embedded campus is one that is integrated within a host community. Since the time of the Barrot Plan many others have been produced to chart the future growth of Queen’s that have reflected on the embedded nature of Queen’s University. In producing these plans and our current Campus Master Plan we ask many of the same questions that been previously posed. We look for ways to connect the various campuses as well as integrate the campus within the surrounding community. We strive to identify “great places” on campus and look for ways to reinforce and replicate them when possible. We try to understand what is needed in terms of academic, residence and recreational space and site the appropriate location for new buildings. In many respects the important part of producing a Campus Master Plan is the asking of these questions. The answer to these questions may change over time reflecting our changing values and needs and that is ok. Because, at its best a Campus Master Plan is a reflection of our collective ideas of what the physical expression of the University should or can be.”

[1] Board of Trustees Minutes, Dec. 9, 1945, Queen’s University Archives.
[i.] Board of Trustees Minutes, May 16, 1945, Queen’s University Archives.
[ii.] Ibid.
[iii.] Building Committee Minutes, Aug. 26, 1955, Queen’s University Archives.
[vi.] Kenney, Daniel R; Dumont, Ricardo; Kenney, Ginger S. (2005). Mission and place: strengthening learning and community through campus design. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers.
[v.] Building Committee Minutes, Aug. 26, 1955, Queen’s University Archives.
[vi.] Stern, Robert A.M. (2010). Robert A.M. Stern: On Campus: architecture, identity, and community. edited by Peter Morris Dixon with Alexander Newman-Wise and Jonathan Grzywacz. New York: Monacelli Press.

Tony Gkotsis bio imageTony Gkotsis is a graduate student in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University and Graduate Trustee on the Queen’s University Board of Trustees.  Tony has been involved in the Campus Master Plan process since last May as the Society of Graduate and Professional Student representative on the Campus Master Plan Advisory Committee and is a member of the Queen’s University Campus Master Plan Project Team.

Does reading about these past plans give you any ideas about the issues we should be responding to today? Ideas for the CMP’s recommendations? Leave a comment and let us know! Or take to Twitter — don’t forget to use the #PlanYourCampus hashtag.

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One Response to Guest Blogger: Tony Gkotsis

  1. Pingback: Guest Blogger: David Gordon, Director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning | qucampusplan

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