History | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada


In the beginning

At the turn of the 20th century, there was a growing awareness of the need for closer professional ties between provincial groups of architects in Canada. A series of meetings were held over a period of about 12 months between Mr. D. Ewart, Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works in Ottawa; Edmund Burke, President of the Ontario Association of Architects in Toronto; and Alcide Chaussé, President of the Province of Quebec Association of Architects, who decided that the time was opportune for the formation of a national organization.

In April, 1907, a circular letter was sent to 500 architects practicing in the Dominion, inviting them to join the proposed Institute as Charter Members upon payment of a fee of $10.00. M. Chaussé, Secretary pro tem, stated in his letter that “It is thought by some architects that the time has arrived for the organization of a society embracing the whole Dominion. It is also felt that such a Society has become a necessity in order to promote and conserve the honour and dignity of the profession. Also, it will help to unify the various local organizations and be of service to practitioners in localities having no local organizations.”

A provisional board of organization was formed with A.F. Dunlop, R.C.A., P.Q.A.A., Montreal, Quebec, as President; Vice-Presidents were Edmund Burke of Toronto; Maurice Perrault, P.Q.A.A., Montreal, Member of the Province of Quebec Legislature; S. Frank Peters of Winnipeg, Manitoba, President of the M.A.A. The Secretary was M. Chaussé, Past President of the P.Q.A.A.; and the Treasurer J.W.H. Watts, R.C.A., Ottawa Vice-President of the O.A.A. and the Chairman of the Ottawa Chapter of the O.A.A. There were 14 members of Council drawn from Provincial Associations right across the country, and legal advice was sought from Mr. J.C. Walsh, Member of Parliament for the St. Ann’s Division of Montreal.

The next step was to draft an act in order to obtain government approval for formal incorporation. Under Mr. Walsh’s guidance a “Project of an Act to Incorporate the Institute of Architects of Canada” was prepared. This comprehensive document was devised to restrict the use of the title “Architect” and the practice of Architecture to corporate members of the Institute. The qualifications of individuals wishing to be admitted as corporate members were carefully defined and it was proposed that a board of not less than seven examiners be set up in order to review the qualifications of candidates, and to administer the preliminary and final examinations proposed for the Institute. Candidates were required to pass an examination in the nature of soils and foundations, strength of materials and construction, architectural history, ornament and design, hygiene and sanitation of buildings, architectural jurisprudence, heating and ventilation, acoustics and specification of works.

Included in the Act was “the membership of the said Institute shall consist of honorary members, corresponding members, associates, members, associate members and students as may be provided by the by-laws hereafter to be made.”

The First Convention

The provisional board of organization proposed that a congress or convention of Canadian architects be held in Montreal from August 19th to 23rd, 1907, so that the draft of the Act could be discussed in detail.

The letter of invitation to attend the first congress of Canadian architects carried the heading “Forward always, banded together for the protection of our fellow citizens and the advancement of our art.”

Mr. Edmund Burke, the President of the Ontario Association of Architects, noted that “never before, as far as I am aware, have we of the West, English-speaking members of the profession, had the pleasure of meeting in convention our friends and confreres of the Province of Quebec.” He also stressed education, saying, “If we train our students thoroughly and see that none but first class men are permitted to enter the profession, I think the rest will take care of itself.”

The reports of the meetings and correspondence indicate that the provinces were well represented, and lively discussions ensued. The deliberations are recorded verbatim in the archives of the RAIC.

Incorporation of The Architectural Institute of Canada

On Wednesday, November 20th, 1907, the draft of the proposed Bill, or Act to Incorporate the Institute of Architects of Canada was deposited with the Clerk of the House of Commons.

The Bill had a stormy passage through Parliament and was strongly opposed by those who saw in it an attempt to create a closed corporation to the disadvantage of building contractors, engineers, manufacturers and others who wished also to function as architects.

However, after much revision, a Bill was finally approved by a special act of the Dominion Parliament on June 16th, 1908 and incorporated under the name changed to “The Architectural Institute of Canada.”

Becoming Royal

On May 15, 1909, an alliance with the Royal Institute of British Architects was completed. In a letter from the Governor General dated June 2nd, 1909, Royal assent to the adoption of the prefix “Royal” to its corporate name was granted.

The Charter – 1929

The RAIC Charter was amended by a special Act of Parliament on April 1st, 1912, and again on June 10th, 1929, and included three classes of members:

1. Members of the RAIC,
2. Fellows of the RAIC,
3. Honorary Fellows of the RAIC.

It also included that “The objects of the Institute shall be to facilitate the acquirement and interchange of professional knowledge among its members and more particularly to promote the acquisition of that species of knowledge which has special reference to the profession of Architecture, and further to encourage investigation in connection with all branches and departments of knowledge connected with that profession.”

By-Laws 1929 – Fellows

The RAIC bylaws adopted December 28th, 1929, and subsequently amended in 1932 and 1934 included the establishment of an “original body of Fellows” and the procedures for subsequent nomination and election. Council determined that in order to create an original body of Fellows under the charter as amended in 1929, the Fellowship of the Institute should be offered to all Past Presidents of the federated provincial societies, along with those who had been nominated Fellows prior to 1913, subject to acceptance within two months. Thereafter the election of Fellows would be formalized and each nomination would have to be made by a Fellow supported by two other Fellows. Various other rules were clearly laid down: for example, the nominee had to be over 35 years of age and already an RAIC member; he had to have practised as a principal for 10 years, or to have held appointments of equivalent standing. Not only was the letter of nomination to state clearly the grounds on which election was recommended – “Professional eminence, services to the profession, artistic ability, etc.” but the nominee had to state willingness to become a Fellow.

It was intended that the Fellows would constitute an advisory body that could effectively express its views to Council, the Executive, or before the General Meeting.

Honorary Fellows were to be “those who have retired from practice, and any persons who have contributed by research, scholarship, public service or professional standing to the good of Architecture in Canada, or elsewhere.

The payment of annual dues caused endless problems for the administrative officers. Owing to the economic recession of the 1930s, many Fellows had difficulty in paying their dues. The President therefore was asked to write to the Senior Fellows in each province, urging them to ensure that “a prospective Fellow must be informed before nomination of the financial obligation involved and express willingness to accept such responsibility.