Daniels Faculty announces Douglas Cardinal as 2020-2021 Gehry Chair

The Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design has announced that the 2020-21 Frank Gehry International Visiting Chair in Architectural Design is Douglas Cardinal, OC, FRAIC.

By Bruce Reeve via Wikimedia Commons

Cardinal is a renowned Canadian architect known both for his inspiring designs and for his advocacy for the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples. He will give a series of four public lectures, in collaboration with the Daniels Faculty, throughout his appointment as Gehry Chair. They will take place online on January 14, February 4, February 25, and March 25.

Over a span of more than 50 years, Cardinal has completed buildings, master plans, and land use plans throughout Canada and in the United States. He is best known for his institutional commissions, particularly his ground-breaking St. Mary’s Church in Red Deer and two of his museums: the Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, and the National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington D.C.

Cardinal is known as the inventor of an architectural style influenced by his prairie upbringing and his Indigenous heritage. Cardinal, who is of Blackfoot and German descent, attended St. Joseph Convent, a residential school in Red Deer, Alberta, before enrolling in the University of British Columbia School of Architecture in 1952. In 1956, Cardinal went to Taliesin West in Arizona with the intention of training under Frank Lloyd Wright and learning from his principles of organic architecture —  but the school offered no accreditation that Canada would recognize at the time.

The architect sought out another school, the University of Texas at Austin, where he pursued his Bachelor of Architecture. While attending the University of Texas, Cardinal was introduced by his German-Jewish émigré professor and mentor, Hugo Leipziger-Pearce, to another formative influence: the work of the German expressionist architect Rudolf Steiner. It was also at the University of Texas that Cardinal began his life of political activism, during the early days of the U.S. civil rights movement. He graduated with honours in 1963.

Cardinal continues to be an influential voice in the architectural discipline. In 2018, he led a team of Indigenous architects and designers who represented Canada at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

“The vicissitudes of Douglas Cardinal’s life are one of those larger-than-life tales — from the nurture of home, to the trauma of residential schools, and then perseverance and a precocious commitment to architecture and the evolution of a unique idiom of design,” says associate professor Robert Levit, via daniels.utoronto.ca. “We are thrilled to have him joining us this year at the Daniels Faculty to share his thoughts on architecture, and to host conversations with our students.”

Instructions for joining Cardinal’s Gehry lectures will be posted on the Daniels Faculty website.