Canadian Architecture and Nationalism: From Vernacular to Deco
The Brock Review
The debates about national and local architecture in Canada go as far as the construction of the first permanent structures. The young country had to invent its native architectural tradition and at the same time to mitigate European influences. Introducing the notion of longing – or nostalgia – into the debate on Canadian design and architecture this study argues that European grandeur, innovations as well as financial and cultural magnitude often played an important role in the desire to
... the desire to create artistic projects including public and residential buildings. The interest in the Gothic revival and the forging of the Neo-Gothic style can be tied to a nostalgic feeling for the British Isles (their land of origin) and also for the utopian notions of unalienated artistic production during the Romanesque and Gothic periods championed by British philosophers Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852) and John Ruskin (1919-1900). The cultural horizons of those who participated in the forging of the national style included both the notion of modernity and its opposite (the anti-modern), the dream of the new but also the dream of the old. The article argues that such a complex inspiration is at the core of any modernist production, for it brings together and blurs the modern and anti-modern, the old and the new, and by doing so, it generates constant innovation. At the core of forging the nationalist style, there is also a desire to incorporate European history and heritage, not to negate or reject it. Finally, it argues that Art Deco became the vehicle that helped to popularize the ideas of modernity propagated by avant-garde artists and architects.