Gold Medal — 2015 Recipient | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Gold Medal — 2015 Recipient

Brian MacKay-Lyons, FRAIC
Award Category: 
Gold Medal

MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Born and raised in the village of Arcadia in Southwestern Nova Scotia, Brian MacKay-Lyons received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Technical University of Nova Scotia in 1978, where he was awarded the RAIC’s Student Medal. He received his Master of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California, Los Angeles and won the Dean's Award for Design.

After studying in China, Japan, California and Italy and working with prominent architects Charles Moore and Barton Myers, both of the United States, and Giancarlo De Carlo, of Italy, he returned to Nova Scotia in 1983.

In 1985, he founded the firm Brian MacKay-Lyons Architecture Urban Design in Halifax. Twenty years later Brian partnered with Talbot Sweetapple to form MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Ltd. The practice works locally and internationally on cultural, academic and residential projects.

In 1994, Mr. MacKay-Lyons founded Ghost Lab on his farm near Lunenburg. It drew architects, historians, critics and writers from around the world who explored through dialogue and hands-on construction the values of regionalism, craft, and design. The annual two-week event ended in 2011.

Mr. MacKay-Lyons has built a reputation for design excellence confirmed by more than 100 awards including the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Firm Award in 2014, six Governor General Medals, two American Institute of Architects Honor Awards for Architecture, 13 Lieutenant Governor's Medals of Excellence, eight Canadian Architect Awards, three Architectural Record Houses Awards, and seven North American Wood Design Awards.

His work has been featured in more than 330 publications, including six monographs: Seven Stories from a Village Architect (1996); Brian MacKay-Lyons: Selected Works 1986-1997 (1998); Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons (2005); Ghost: Building an Architectural Vision (2008); Local Architecture: Building Place, Craft, and Community (2014); and the upcoming publication Economy as Ethic: The Work of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects.

A professor of architecture at Dalhousie University, Mr. MacKay-Lyons has taught for over 30 years. He has held 17 endowed academic chairs and visiting professorships, and given more than 200 public lectures.

Jury Comment(s): 

"His work is universally recognized as pure, dignified, poetic and beautiful,” said the jury. “His work comes from an intimate connection with his communities.”

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Chebogue Schoolhouse

Photo: Will Green

Cliff House

Photo: Greg Richardson


Photo: Greg Richardson

Ghost 6 Tower

Photo: James Steeves

Ghost 7 Cabins

Photo: James Steeves

House 22

Photo: James Steeves


Photo: Greg Richardson


Photo: Greg Richardson

Sunset Rock

Photo: Greg Richardson