File 15 - Macdonald Engineering Building

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Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Macdonald Engineering Building

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Reference code

CA CAC 1-1-15

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Statement of scale (architectural)

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Dates of creation area


  • May 1907-April 1908 (Architect)
    Nobbs, Percy E. (Percy Erskine), 1875-1964
  • May 1907-April 1908 (Client)
    McGill University.

Physical description area

Physical description

112 drawings : 82 ink on linen, 2 ink on paper, 5 ink on card, 11 pencil on paper, 1 pencil on card, 1 watercolour on paper, 10 blueprints
3 photographs

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Scope and content

File consists of architectural drawings and blueprints for university building. Includes 8 measured drawings (floor plans, numbering of rooms), 7 presentation drawings (proposed elevation, front and back elevations, north and south elevations, sections), 3 development drawings (drafting room, floor plan, treads and nosing section), 16 working drawings (floor plans, roof plan, elevations, sections), 76 detail drawings (room plans and elevations, sections, doors, structure, stairs, lettering, gallery, gables, corridor, entrance hall, windows, porch, ducts, sashes, theatre plan and sections, seats, staircase, marble work [including partitions and wall linings], fittings, lintels, lighting, terracotta [including porch, vestibule, door, hall, locker room], stonework [including windows, elevations, entrance, gables, panels]), 1 consultant drawing (roof diagram), 1 record drawing (elevation). Also includes 32 photographs (3 models, 2 construction, 6 finished exteriors, 18 finished interiors, 3 others).

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General note

See 3d objects nos. 1,6,8,27,28 and 29.

General note

On the 5th of April 1907, the Macdonald Engineering Building was almost entirely destroyed by fire. Designed by Andrew T. Taylor (1850-1973), the building exterior was solidly built of limestone, but its interior was of mill-construction. Both the interior and the roof of the building were entirely wrecked, and the external stone walls were seriously damaged. Percy Nobbs was commissioned to redesign and rebuild the structure on condition that it be operational for the fall semester that same year, which in fact he achieved. (Norbert Schoenauer, “Percy Erskine Nobbs: Teacher and Builder of Architecture,” Fontanus: from the Collections of McGill University 7 [1996]: 51) In his Macdonald Engineering Building Nobbs pays homage to Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1913). Although the building derives its own character from the local limestone, the relationship of plan elevation, and a programmatic use of detail, its massing looks to Shaw’s work such as Piccadilly Hotel in London. Nobbs’s deference to Shaw also had a deeper consequence. His willingness to accept the resurgent Classicism and the Grand Manner of English architecture as a model suitable for Canada was the final link in a chain of influences and ideas which Nobbs developed in his writing and which he set forth as a course for the development of Canadian architecture. (Kelly Crossman, Architecture in Transition: From Art to Practice, 1885-1906 [Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987], 134-35)

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