Fonds 64 - Peter Collins

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Peter Collins

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CA CAC 64

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  • undated (Creation)
    Creator
    Collins, Peter, 1920-1981

Physical description area

Physical description

5.1 m of textual records.

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Name of creator

(1920-1981)

Biographical history

Peter Collins (1920-1981), architect, historian, and educator was born in England. He completed his undergraduate education at the Leeds School of Architecture in 1948 and during the next four years worked in Switzerland and France with architects trained by Auguste Perret. He returned to England in 1952 to study the development of French architectural theory in the mid-eighteenth century at the University of Manchester.

In 1956, he was appointed Professor of History and Theory of Architecture at McGill University, a post he held until 1981. Collins also taught at renowned American universities including Yale and Berkeley. In his first book, Concrete: the Vision of a New Architecture (1959), Collins studied the invention of concrete, analyzed the ideas and achievements of the nineteenth-century pioneers of reinforced concrete, and celebrated the Structural Rationalism of his master Auguste Perret as the culmination of a 150-year historical development. With this book, which displayed his talents as a writer and his inclination for Classicism, Collins encountered unexpected issues which he attempted to resolve in his second book, Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture (1750-1950). Published in 1965, this pivotal work was an immediate international success. In the book Collins developed an intellectual history which was critical of the formalism which, he believed, characterized the existing histories of the Modern Movement in architecture. Stemming directly from his pedagogical activities in Schools of Architecture, his history focused on the study of the ideals of modern architects. Besides the originality of its methodological approach, Changing Ideals introduced a new field of research by pushing the historical limits of architectural modernity back to the middle of the eighteenth century. This book represents the most important contribution in Canadian historiography to the debates of the 1960’s and remains an invaluable source of information for contemporary history and theory.

At the beginning of the 1970’s, Collins surprised his colleagues by completing a Master of Law degree. Focused on the concept of jurisprudence, these studies were critical in the preparation on his third and final book, Architectural Judgement (1971), in which he compared the decision-making processes in law to those in architectural design. Parallel to the publication of his books, Collins wrote many articles and book reviews in which he took a stand on issues surrounding the teaching of theory and history in architecture schools. In his lifetime, he received numerous prizes for the quality of his work as an historian.

Custodial history

Peter Collins donated the material to the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection.

Scope and content

Includes correspondence, journals, books, manuscripts, photographic material, audio tapes, course material, research material, postcards, book reviews, conference proceedings, thesis, and articles for publication.

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  • English

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124

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