Approach to SFU. Photographer unidentified. Image from the SFU Archives, F-247-4-0-0-16.


Manuscript Traces SFU's Architectural History

July 03, 2015

By Michelle Curran

In January 1963, a report entitled "Higher Education in British Columbia and a Plan for the Future" by Dr. J.B. Macdonald recommended that a new university be created in the Lower Mainland. Two months later, the proposal for Simon Fraser University received formal assent in the British Columbia Legislature, and in May of 1963 Dr. Gordon M. Shrum was appointed Chancellor.

From a variety of sites that were offered, the Chancellor recommended to the Provincial Government that the top of 365-metre Burnaby Mountain be selected for the new university. Lying east of Vancouver, the site commands magnificent views of Burrard Inlet, the mountains, the Fraser River, and Vancouver Harbor.

Architects were invited to compete in the design of the overall campus. The Vancouver firm of Erickson/Massey won the competition, and the four architects who had been runners-up in the competition each designed at least one building within the overall plan.

In addition to the Macdonald report, the SFU Archives holds many records that document the beginnings of the university and its rich architectural history. These include Board Minutes, Shrum’s papers, a collection of photographs of buildings under construction, original drawings by the firms of Harrison and Kiss, and much more.

With the launch of SFU AtoM, which provides access to digitized records, the Archives is now making available to researchers a manuscript entitled "The Design for Simon Fraser University and the Problems Accompanying Excellence" by Gene Waddell. Waddell has written extensively on architectural history and is currently based in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is College Archivist at the College of Charleston and an adjunct professor in the Department of Art History.

During the late 1990s, Waddell was commissioned by Dr. Phyllis Lambert, then director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, to produce a catalogue for a travelling exhibition relating to Arthur Erickson's work on SFU. In the end, the exhibition did not take place, but Waddell expanded his original text into a substantial manuscript (ca. 600 pages). Over the years, this manuscript has been a helpful resource to researchers visiting the Archives' reading room. Now available via SFU AtoM, the Waddell manuscript will expand its reach to researchers near and far.

Link to digitized records in SFU AtoM

Recommended fonds/collections
In SFU AtoM: Facilities Management Department fonds (F-11), Gordon Shrum fonds (F-32), Robert F. Harrison fonds (F-46), Ron Baker fonds (F-34), Simon Fraser University aerial and construction photograph collection (F-30), and W. Randle Iredale fonds (F-47).

At the Centre for Canadian Architecture: Fonds 22: Arthur Erickson fonds.

At the Canadian Architectural Archives: Arthur Erickson fonds, 1953-1970 (Accession 4A/76.13 Project ERI 68020 Elevation)

Recommended AV recording
A conversation with Erickson and Massey, SFU architects. Filmed and edited by Francis Campbell of the SFU Teaching and Learning Centre. Interview conducted by Leigh Hunt Palmer on behalf of the Simon Fraser University Retirees Association.