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Brian MacKay-Lyons—Royal Architectural Institute of Canada—Congratulations on Gold Medal

Brian MacKay-Lyons—Royal Architectural Institute of Canada—Congratulations on Gold Medal

Brian MacKay-Lyons—Royal Architectural Institute of Canada—Congratulations on Gold Medal

Brian MacKay-Lyons—Royal Architectural Institute of Canada—Congratulations on Gold Medal


Published on 26 March 2015
Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Brian MacKay-Lyons, a resident of Upper Kingsburg, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, upon recently being awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Gold Medal.

According to the institute, “This honour is bestowed in recognition of a significant body of work deemed to be a major contribution to Canadian architecture, and having lasting influence on the theory and/or the practice of architecture, either — through demonstrated excellence in design; and/or, excellence in research or education.”

Mr. MacKay-Lyons graduated from Dalhousie University with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1974, and then degrees in Environmental Design and Architecture from Technical University of Nova Scotia in 1974 and 1976 respectively. In 1982 he earned a Master of Architecture in urban design from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Through study and work abroad in Italy, China and Japan under such leading architects as Charles Moore, Barton Myers and Giancarlo De Carlo, Brian gained a wealth of experience, yet his heart lay at home in Nova Scotia.

He returned home to open his own practice in Halifax in 1985, Brian MacKay-Lyons Architecture Urban Design, which 10 years later became MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Ltd. His work has garnered much national and international attention. Over the course of his career, he has received over 100 awards, including six Governor General Medals and two American Institute of Architects Honor Awards for Architecture. His work has been recognized in over 300 publications. He remains a professor at Dalhousie University, where he has lectured for 30 years.

Mr. MacKay-Lyons sees a widening gulf between the teaching of architecture and the practice of building, or as he puts it, between the head and the hand.

This led to his creation of the Ghost Lab, an educational program that took place on his family farm at Upper Kingsburg. It was his response to academic shortcomings but also an attempt to revitalize the key ingredient of apprenticeship in the education of an architect. He approaches apprenticeship in the traditional sense of that relationship, with a mentor meant not only to teach but to inspire as well.

The essence of Mr. MacKay-Lyon’s approach, in his own words, “has been to make architecture about place — its landscape, climate and material culture.” To see his creations along the shoreline of Nova Scotia is to see the physical manifestation of these words. His creations are a part of the land. They do not dominate; they enhance the natural beauty. They belong there.

As one of the jury members for the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada put it, “His work is universally recognized as pure, dignified, poetic and beautiful. His work comes from an intimate connection with his communities.” The institute’s Gold Medal will be presented to Mr. MacKay-Lyons this summer in Calgary, and we extend the sincere congratulations of the Senate of Canada to him.

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