Construction U

Photograph of student overlooking construction of the Physics Building circa 1965Since moving to its current campus on the north bank of the Rideau River, expansion has been a regular feature of Carleton University. New buildings have been appearing rapidly since the campus opened, with regular plans for updates and additions. Carleton's decision to move came at an opportune moment when financial incentives were provided by the provincial government for universities to expand to meet the enrolment increase experienced throughout the 1960's and 70's. As a result, many buildings on campus were built between 1959 and 1972. Within a short period of intense construction, Carleton University had transformed a previously undeveloped area outside of the city of Ottawa.

This exhibit explores how Carleton University rapidly changed its environment while maintaining a consistant approach to design. Initially, its modern buildings were meant to stand in contast to their natural surroundings and create "a discipline of nature". With this as its starting point, Carleton's presence at the Rideau River Campus grew and this initial approach was returned to and modified.

Photograph: Construction of the Physics Building, later named the Herzberg Laboratories, 1965. (Public Relations and Information Services fonds)


Composite photograph of quadrangle from various perspectives during and after construction ca. 1960

The situation of the original three buildings to each other was meant to separate the core disciplines, arts and sciences, from each other yet place them on the edge of a common courtyard to encourage convergence, interaction, and community. This concept was not without controversy. While Hart Massey argued that the division of disciplines within each building situated at the end of a common space would allow opportunities for both introspection and interaction, other architects considered the campus itself to be an enclosure, a space unto itself in parkland separate from the city and therefore not in need of more introspective space. While the Glebe Campus was within and indistinct from the city the new campus risked isolation in its undeveloped location. The creation of a planned precinct like the Rideau River campus was a relatively recent development and its novelty inspired concerns about its social consequences.

The sharp angles of the buildings and their layout were question explored by the architects, who considered the buildings to be a “discipline of nature”. In other words, the architects considered the terrain itself to be rugged onto which discipline needed to be imposed to control it. 

Photographs: (top left) “Between Two Waterways, 1960.” An aerial view of the Rideau Campus after completion of MacOdrum Library, H.M. Tory Building and Norman Patterson Hall”; (bottom left) “Photo of Tory Building – Patterson Hall under construction – winter photo, ca. 1959; (top right) “Photograph of MacOdrum Library and Patterson building May 20, 1959”; (bottom right) ”Postcard of students in quad, ca. 1959”. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs, Library Special Collections fonds, Public Relations and Information Services fonds)

Patterson Hall

Composite of photographs of Patterson Hall under construction and completed circa 1960

As the arts building was the final addition to the first phase of construction, arts faculty were required to work out of the Glebe campus while the rest of the university had moved to their new Rideau River locations. The final product was a rectangular, marble panelled building which appeared to float. Its lower storey was constructed of glazed blue brick that sets off the third and fourth levels. Two walkways provide access from the quad. The upper levels impose on the quad with a facade of white slabs and slender windows. The lower levels feature hexagonal seminar rooms, with exterior walls zig-zagging along the second level. The building was named after Norman McLeod Patterson, Canadian businessman and politician and Carleton College’s principle benefactor. 

Of the first three buildings on campus, Patterson Hall suffered the most from the increasingly apparent need for new buildings to accommodate a rapidly swelling student body. The final part of the first phase, planning for the arts building suffered from the realities of budget constraints after the true costs of the Tory Building and the Library were settled. A more economical design with a shorter construction timeline was chosen due to budget and time constraints. 

Photographs: (top left) Completed Patterson Hall, March 1960, (top right) Photo of an architectural sketch of Patterson Hall, (bottom left) Patterson Hall on the completed quadrangle, ca. 1962, (bottom right) Construction of Patterson Hall, 1959. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs, Public Relations and Information Services)

MacOdrum Library

Composite photos of exterior and interior of MacOdrum Library from the 1950's and 60's

It was determined that, due to the projected increase in enrolment, there would be no space for a science library in the Tory Building. This meant the planned library would need to be built at the same time. The new library would be named after recently deceased University president Maxwell MacOdrum and would be built to accommodate the expected enrolment of two thousand students within the next twenty years. The first two floors would be built with the expectation that three more floors would be added to complete the structure. The building temporarily housed the university’s administration until a separate administration building was complete. 

Architecturally, the library was an attractive building with tall narrow windows separated by classical fins of charcoal and grey fibreglass which protected the interior from direct sunlight. Effort was made to correct the acoustic faults of the Glebe campus library, making soundproofing and carpets a high priority. The original building had a total of 43,700 square feet and was designed on the open stack principle. 

The entrance canopy is a reinforced concrete structure with sawtooth roof. School Progress, a bulletin from May 1960, notes that the most outstanding feature of the new library is its lighting, which is controlled primarily through “the unique application of photoelectric and timing controls.” The canopy was illuminated by the reflection of light from units in the walk underneath. 

Photographs: (left) Three female students on the west side of the library, ca. 1950, (top middle) Elevated view of building and front walkway, March 29, 1960, (top right) Three unidentified students in Library's smoking study, January 1968, (bottom right) Photo of completed MacOdrum Library, 1958. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs, Library Special Collections fonds)

Tory Building

Composite of four photographs of the interior and exterior of the newly built Tory Building circa 1960

As the first building on the new campus, the Tory Building needed to be flexible enough to accommodate the university’s immediate needs and shift to its intended purpose as a science and engineering building. Initially, each floor of the building was dedicated to one subject, with the structures on the roof being dedicated to a greenhouse, an animal room, a potting room, and fans for the chemistry labs. The building was named after Henry Marshall Tory, who had seen Carleton through from its provisional and beginnings to its establishment as a small college with a home of its own. Tory was a mathematician by discipline and served as the chairman of the National Research Council.

The Tory Building reflects the modernist approach of the first phase of the new campus plan with an “exterior of enamelled steel with large glass areas separated by columns faced with white marble.” Student newspaper The Carleton marvelled that, while standing under the main clock in the entrance “can look west to the main court and the library and east to the playing fields an city of Ottawa.” The main lecture theatre, nicknamed “the egg” by students due to its oval shape, occupied the middle of the building’s second and third floors. The theatre’s odd design reflects a concern for acoustics, so a lecturer could be heard without need of a microphone. The theatre’s outside wall was reserved for a mural.

Photographs: (top left) The completed Tory Building, 1959, (top right), Construction on the inside of the Tory Building, September 18, 1958, (bottom left) Promotional photograph of two students walking across the quad with the Tory Building under construction in the background, 1960, (bottom right) Photo of quad and completed Tory Building, ca. 1960. (Library Special Collections fonds, Carleton University Library Historical Photographs, Public Relations and Information Services fonds)

A Campus on the Rideau River

Photograph of student Enid McNeil, Blyth Robertson, and Brian Flumerfelt lifting a canoe from the Rideau Canal

Fulfilling the Board of Governors’ vision of a campus with more space that featured rustic surroundings, Carleton’s new campus not only offered views of the Rideau River rapids but close proximity to wooded areas and more accessible waters of the Rideau Canal and Dow’s Lake. Not only were these the new campus’ geographic barriers, they were also prominent backdrops and features of Carleton University’s social life. Ambitious students could paddle down the canal to Dow’s Lake if they wished, or cross Hartwell Locks to visit the Dominion Arboretum or other features of the Central Experimental Farm.

Photograph: “Travelling in style to Carleton University, arts student Enid McNeil, 20, paddles down the canal everyday and docks at the Hartwell Locks before crossing the foot bridge to attend lectures on the new Rideau River campus. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alex McNeil, Enid lives half a mile from Carleton towards Hog's Back. Giving her a helping hand here are Blyth Robertson, right, and Brian Flumerfelt, left.” ca. 1964. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs)

Aesthetic Continuity

Sketch of Carleton University campus circa 1955

Within the campus plan was a distinctive architectural style illustrating the university's commitment to the future unbound to the past. There were to be no vine-covered towers or Gothic style buildings. The university was to be modern in appearance and attitude, or, in the words of the student handbook, the new campus would be "of the latest contemporary design, in keeping with Carleton's lively spirit and progressive outlook." As stated by Claude Bissell's words, the new campus would be a "Brave New World without the Gothic."

The original buildings composed the main quadrangle of the university, which could be seen from the Rideau Canal with an unobstructed view. This quadrangle was conceptualized as the location where different disciplines came together. As the kernel of the university, all further development was to take its esthetic cue from the interaction of the forms and spaces in this location.

Photograph: Sketch of Carleton University, ca. 1955 (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs).

First Phase

Photograph of construction of the Tory Building, September 18th, 1958.

The first phase of the new campus was ambitious. Architects proposed a science and engineering building, a library and arts building, a student union and an administrative building which would form a closed courtyard. This initial development would be added to with student residences to the north and a field house and playing fields on the other side of the railway tracks. Since enrolment was projected to grow, the library was built with an expectation that additions would be made to it within the next ten years.

Photograph: Construction of the Tory Building, September 18th, 1958. (Library Special Collections fonds)


Photograph of architectural model of Carleton University circa 1956

The master plan brought with it the understanding that new buildings were only part of the necessary considerations for the new campus. Infrastructure would need to be introduced from scratch. The new campus would require water, electricity, heat, and telephone service, as well as walking paths, roads, parking lots, and bus routes. The only infrastructure on the site before the arrival of the university was the CPR railroad cutting north-south through the campus, which was expected to be removed and considered more of an obstacle than a part of the system. 

In a novel approach, part of the solution found regarding infrastructure was to send traffic underground with a network of pedestrian and service tunnels that link all buildings. Placing services underground meant a more attractive campus and shelter from Ottawa's often harsh winters for students coming from or returning to the residences. The master plan made provisions for the future, recommending traffic flow, pedestrian circulation, and population density be continuously studied with findings integrated into new master plans.

Photograph: Architectural model of Carleton University ca. 1956. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs)

Discipline of Nature

Architectural drawing of the Master Plan for Carleton University circa 1960

The promise of the new campus was its unshaped potential as the antithesis of the cramped and makeshift Glebe campus. The board and faculty agreed that the new campus would be planned and space would be available for all of the University's needs. A group of local architects, all within the modernist school, collaborated under the name of the Architectural Associates for Carleton University. Among them was Canadian architect Hart Massey. 

The Architectural Associates wished to create an order and simplicity out of the wilderness of what had previously been farmland, squatter's land, and flood plains. This master plan laid out all future development for the university, which at the time projected its enrolment would increase to 6,000 students by the year 2000. To keep up with changing academic needs, new architectural trends, and provincial grants which accelerated the pace of construction, the master plan was not strictly adhered to as Carleton University grew. The esthetic continuity outlined in the master plan, however, has remained an important feature of new architectural additions on the Carleton University campus.

Photograph: Master Plan for Carleton University, ca. 1960. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs)

State of the Art Facilities

Engineering students demonstrate the use of the Wind Tunnel for detecting flutter in aircraft wings and tail assemblies circa 1958

By 1959, the slump in enrolment had ended and Carleton's student population had exceeded the peak experienced during the veterans' days. It was also becoming increasingly apparent that the current campus' science and engineering facilities were inadequate. This became more apparent with the appointment of Chalmers Jack Mackenzie, president of the National Research Council, as Chancellor. The appointment of one of Canada’s foremost engineers as chancellor highlighted Carleton’s engineering program which hardly benefited from state of the art facilities worthy of the NRC President. Mackenzie himself advocated the improvement of the program. A new engineering building would require a new campus.

Photograph: Engineering students demonstrate the use of the Wind Tunnel for detecting flutter in aircraft wings and tail assemblies, ca. 1958. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs)

Carleton becomes a University

Photograph of Claude T. Bissell and A. Davidson Dunton outside Patterson Hall on the new campus circa 1961. Note Patterson Hall's original marble panels.

The timing of the University's expansion is important, as this was a time when a social shift was predicted from an industrial to a post-industrial society characterized by innovation. This new society depended on research that would reveal the mysteries of the material world and expand our control over the world in which we lived. With the advent of space exploration, there seemed to be few limits to what could be achieved. This was important for universities, an obvious choice for such innovation to take place.

President Bissell resigned shortly after plans for the new campus had been solidified. The choice of his replacement, A. Davidson Dunton, was indicative of Carleton’s recognition of its own rising status. As the former chairman of the CBC, Dunton had experience dealing with politicians. As Carleton had become a university with the majority of its funding coming from the provincial government, this was a newly valuable talent for the institution.

Photograph: Claude T. Bissell and A. Davidson Dunton outside of Patterson Hall on the new campus, ca. 1961. Note Patterson Hall's original marble panels. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs)

Projected Increase in Enrolment

President Claude T. Bissell looks over a scale model plan for the Rideau River Campus with some associates circa 1957

The decision to move rested on an important question for the University: how big should it be? Though enrolment had slowed by the late 1950's, the census showed that it would double within the next ten or fifteen years. Despite the Board of Governors' wish for the university to remain small, statistics about the size of the coming generation made it evident that the exponential growth required to house a rapidly expanding enrolment within the next twenty years would necessitate a new campus.

Carleton transitioned from a college to a university at an opportune moment. The 1960's saw more public funds made available for educational institutions to meet rising enrolment. A requirement for funding was a comprehensive development plan that the province could approve. A master plan was developed for the new campus, which made provisions for all infrastructure recommending traffic flow, pedestrian circulation, and an esthetic continuity. The majority of the buildings on campus took their cue but did not necessarily follow the initial plan.

Photograph: President Claude T. Bissell looks over a scale model plan for the Rideau River Campus with some associates, ca. 1957 (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs, Glebe Campus)

Land Grant

Photograph of Rideau River campus area before Carleton's arrival showing areas demarkated for future development by the Federal District Commission

In 1947, Harry and Wilson Southam and Colonel C.M. Edwards donated 93 acres to south of Dow’s Lake as a site for a future campus for Carleton College. To the Board of Governors, this parcel of land seemed far away and need to move in the distant future. At the time, enrolment was experiencing a slump after the graduation of the Second World War veterans and expansion seemed contrary to... the small college’s needs. President MacOdrum noted at a board meeting that Carleton would remain in the Glebe and acquire neighbouring buildings as needed. Carleton's Board of Governors considered selling the land that would become the future Rideau River campus if the price was right.

By 1951, the Federal District Commission (which later became the National Capital Commission) had designated the area for recreational use and a proposed national sports centre and zoological garden. The Commission offered to buy the land for one thousand dollars per acre. Carleton's Board of Governors asked for three times as much. The deal stalled, but the Commission had the power to expropriate the land if necessary.

Photograph: An aerial view of the Rideau Campus site. The photo is copy of a picture owned by the National Capital Commission noting which sections of the land would be used for national attractions. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs)

Inadequacy of the Glebe Campus

Photograph of crowd watching hanging of Carleton University sign above entrace of Glebe Campus

The Glebe Campus, at the corner of First Avenue and Lyon Street, was formerly the Ottawa Ladies' College. This location had the advantage of creating an intimate atmosphere, yet the distinct disadvantage of being close quarters with small offices and classrooms and lacking playing fields. It was summarized by President Claude Bissell as “homely, even tawdry.” The building's disadvantages were tempered by the intimacy of the small college and “amateur zest”.

Efforts to move Carleton to a new campus date back to 1953, when Carleton College’s board of governors discussed the possibility of constructing a new building for use as laboratories. The decision was made that plans for a new building would be put on hold until a new campus was found.

Photograph: The Carleton College sign on the front of what used to be the Ottawa Ladies' College is changed from 'Carleton College' to 'Carleton University' in May 1957 when the University achieved its status through an Act of the Ontario Legislature. (Carleton University Library Historical Photographs, Glebe Campus)