Saturday, 9 August 2014

The origins and significance of domestic Gothic architecture in Ottawa, Sept 26-27

A two-day conference will be held Friday, Sept. 26 and Saturday, Sept. 27 on the neglected subject of Ottawa's residential Gothic architecture, including tours, lectures, an exhibit, and a keynote address by Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin, an architectural historian from the UK.  The event, which is open to the public, is sponsored jointly by Carleton University Department of History and its Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Pinhey's Point Foundation, and Heritage Ottawa.

In the late 1850s the prospect of a design competition for Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings drew a number of English architects to the new city. Like Parliament and Ottawa’s Gothic churches, their Gothic residential commissions helped transform a frontier lumber town into a colonial capital, identifying Canada and its capital as progressive partners in the British Empire.  These stone villas shared both fashionable Tudor ornament and a revolutionary ‘pinwheel’ floorplan, in which four wings revolve outward from a central stairhall.  Architectural historian Tim Brittain-Catlin has recently traced this plan to A.W.N. Pugin, the father of the English Gothic revival.  Though Earnscliffe, the best known, was later home to prime minister John A. Macdonald, the houses were built for leading Ottawa merchants, industrialists and professionals, including three members of the Pinhey connection, who had built a Gothic-influenced church on their rural estate in March in the 1820s.

An authority on Pugin and the author of the most comprehensive work on his domestic architecture, Tim Brittain-Catlin of the University of Kent School of Architecture will introduce us to Pugin’s Gothic on the Friday evening at 7pm.  His lecture, hosted by Heritage Ottawa, will take place at St Alban’s Anglican Church (1867-68), once a controversial bastion of high church ritualism.  Saturday morning will feature lectures in 2200 River Building at Carleton University by David Jeanes of Heritage Ottawa on the adoption of the form in Ottawa, and Ian Badgley of the NCC on their archaeological legacy.

Optional tours on the Friday include Earnscliffe, the earliest and most prominent local example of the form, and two very different Gothic revival churches: the romantic ruins of Hamnett Pinhey’s Old St Mary’s (1822-25) and its successor New St Mary’s (designed 1909 by architect J.W.H. Watts, first curator of the National Gallery of Canada), adjuncts to the Pinhey estate on the Ottawa River, where our guests will enjoy a picnic lunch sponsored by the Pinhey's Point Foundation.  On the Saturday afternoon there will be a bus tour to view the surviving villas, beginning with lunch at Cabotto’s restaurant (a rural example of pinwheel Gothic near Stittsville).

An accompanying exhibit by the Pinhey’s Point Foundation that will also offer background on ecclesiastical and civic gothic will move onto campus from Pinhey’s Point Historic Site for the colloquium and will then take up residence in the Department of History for the remainder of the autumn term.

The conference is open to the public, but spaces will be limited (and must be booked for the tours), so please contact Bruce Elliott at as soon as possible to indicate your interest in attending.  The final program will appear closer to the event on and

Thanks to Bruce Elliott for the tip.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This seems quite fitting since the Pugin family eventually moved to Canada and to Ottawa. His great-great grandson (also a Pugin) is employed at Library and Archives Canada.