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The vision of Douglas Cardinal

Famed architect says education and teaching are an important part of his world view.


Carleton university recently announced that Douglas Cardinal, the internationally acclaimed Canadian architect known for his flowing curvilinear style of architecture, will design a new aboriginal centre on campus, to be opened in 2013. Mr. Cardinal, of Métis and Blackfoot heritage, already has a deep connection with the university: in early 2011 he donated his entire collection of drawings, plans, models and other items from 1984 onwards to Carleton’s library archives.

Carleton is not the only Canadian university that soon will have a building designed by Mr. Cardinal. The University of Saskatchewan commissioned him to design the Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre, which was scheduled to begin construction this fall. In addition, Mr. Cardinal was the architect behind the main campus of the First Nations University of Canada, opened in 2003.

Mr. Cardinal, who has said that education and teaching are an important part of his world view, also designed more than 20 elementary and secondary schools, as well as Grand Prairie Regional College in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

According to the website of Mr. Cardinal’s architectural firm, located in Ottawa, he is a proponent of “organic” architecture and expresses his buildings “in a signature style of harmonious curvilinear forms.” The design process for each of his buildings starts with a “vision session” with his clients.

Born in 1934 in Calgary, Mr. Cardinal studied architecture at the University of British Columbia and then at the University of Texas. Among the buildings for which he is most recognized are the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Cardinal was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1990, was elected a Member of the Royal Society of Canada in 2003, and has received 14 honorary doctorates, the most recent from the University of Manitoba earlier this year.

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