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Essays

The Massey Medals

The Massey Medals for Architecture program was established in 1950 to promote and recognize excellence in Canadian architecture, and to increase public awareness of architecture as an expression of Canadian cultural life. Initiated by Vincent Massey, scion of one of Canada's most distinguished and wealthy families and the Governor General of Canada from 1952 to 1959, the Massey competitions were held every three years from 1952 through 1970 in association with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Juries included such luminaries as Pietro Belluschi, William Wurster, Eric Arthur, and Peter Blake.

The format of the Massey Medals changed over the years, with varying award categories and numbers of medals awarded. The Gold Medal was initially the highest accolade, representing "the most significant contribution to Canadian architecture in the three-year period prior to the award." Silver Medals were the secondary awards, although after 1961 the Gold Medal was dropped and the juries awarded all medals on equal standing.

The first Massey Medals for Architecture competition in 1950 was somewhat of a false start but the program began to flourish in 1952. The number of submissions increased dramatically and the Gold Medal winner, the Marwell Building by the Vancouver firm of Semmens and Simpson, received universal praise as a truly exceptional example of Canadian architecture. Four of the eight Silver Medals were awarded to other architects from British Columbia, acknowledging the emergence of the province (and particularly Vancouver) as a centre of creative and dynamic architecture.

Subsequent Massey competitions were increasingly successful, peaking in 1964 and 1967 with 424 entries each. British Columbia architects consistently won medals for residential design, reflecting the province's preeminence in that building type, and continued to win impressively large shares of awards overall. The program wound down following the 1970 competition, and after a twelve-year absence was superseded in 1982 by the Governor-General's Awards for Architecture.

 



Guardian Angels


CKWX Radio Station.
Silver Medal 1958


Marwell Office Building.
Gold Medal 1952

Other Essays

- Early Influences & Development
- The West Coast Style
- The Massey Medals
The West Coast Regional Style of Domestic Architecture
- Vancouver's Recent Landmarks
- Burrard Street Corridor
- The Early Local House Designers
- Bibliography