Neo - Gothic (1900
It has been said that the Gothic style is the
architectural manifestation of the Christian religion. From Abbé
Suger's original Gothic designs in the 11th century at St. Denis
to the most recent Gothic churches in Canada, the vaults,
lancet windows, and exaggerated verticality
of the Gothic style were intended to point the observer heavenwards
and produce a spiritually elevating experience. The adoption of
Neo-Gothic is perfectly understandable for schools and universities
in the early years of the 20th century. The style became so common
scholastic buildings that it is often called Collegiate
Gothic. While the 19th century Gothic Revival style was elaborate,
dichromatic, and used for every
type of building from the small Gothic
Cottage to churches and government buildings, Neo-Gothic was
monochromatic and on a much more grand scale. In essence, architects
adapted the Gothic vocabulary to the requirements of large modern
buildings. Wall buttresses and finials
are added, but they are generally far too small to be of any structural
Despite the fact that Canadian universities are
now competing for students over issues such as university centers
with multiple fast food outlets and extensive computer labs,
the Collegiate Gothic designs such as University
Hall at McMaster University, are what is found on the promotional
literature. This is what people think a university should look
like,in part because the great, old, universities like
Cambridge and Oxford are designed in this style.
The tower is supported by large buttresses.
The parapet has battlementing
and oversized finials. The bay
window has tracery, ogee
curves, and a multiplicity of muntins.
The archway has a beautifully carved reveal
and spandrels that contain images
to inspire learning. (see next image) Doesn't it make you want
to get out a good book?
beautifully kept example, this is the doorway to Hamilton Hall
at McMaster University.
has many carved mouldings that represent
the various disciplines studied at the university: the fish
represent Biology, the pick ax and shovel for Mining Engineering,
the wheelbarrow for Geology, etc.
the spandrel are other decorations,
also on the educational theme. There is a rectangular hoodmold
around the doorway, and at the end of it is a
label stop carved in the shape of a student's head, wearing
a mortar board.
Neo-Gothic architecture lends
itself well to education because of these detailing possibilities.
On the men's residences there are carved footballs and soccer
balls to emphasize the concept of "a healthy body, a healthy
Like McMaster, all of the
buildings at the University of Western Ontario are of the Neo-Gothic
style up until around 1960.
This doorway is flanked
by two large bay windows. The door
has a pointed lunette creating a
Gothic arch which is covered by
a drip mold finished by label
stops. Above the entrance is a stone
balcony with a parapet. On either
side are buttresses with finials
on the top.
Above the front
entrance is a window with a four-centered
arch. The window is detailed with stone
mullions and muntins
on the lower windows. The building has much less tracery
than the McMaster examples above, but still gives the impression
of being a solid institution with a formidable history and tradition.
This building, once the Gold Exchange, is currently
the home of City TV. The owners have spent a fortune in upkeep
and should be given a medal for their efforts.
This is a basically rectangular building, as buildings
are apt to be in downtown locations. The magic is in the terra-cotta
carving and detailing on the sides.
The walls are divided into bays by carved pilasters.
Within each bay are carved mullions
and spandrels. The mullions create
a vertical thrust and end in ornate finials.
Beneath this set of three windows is a large cornice
band with carved figures and crests
at regular intervals.
You could easily spend a few hours just exploring
the exterior of this building.
The Whalen building, built in 1913 by James Whalen,
a logging tycoon, was one of the first really high office buildings
in the area. At first glance it doesn't appear to have much
of a Neo-Gothic flavour, but there are many fine reliefs,
reveals, and Gothic
arches on the street level as well as detailing along the
The vertical window separations are rib-like,
almost buttresses, and the corners
of the building have small tower-like projections with vertical
Many of the offices on the upper floors have been
renovated, but the main floor has been maintained, and there
are lovely frescoes, carvings and other details that make a
trip to this building certainly worthwhile.
Thunder Bay Ontario
Westdale High School in Hamilton has Neo-Gothic
detailing on the portal, on the gable,
and on the piers that form the frontispiece.
The entrance has three segmental arches with large stone molding.
The paired piers have ornate finials,
giving the impression of weight and stability. The frontispiece
forms a unified and impressive scholarly entrance.
School buildings prior to 1970 and Brutalism
usually had more windows than wall. In this example the mullions
are strong, vertical accents reminiscent of Gothic
cathedral design. Massive window surfaces were also used
in university designs such as those seen in Cambridge
and Oxford. Between the window bands
are carved spandrels. The muntin
bars are also pronounced.
Another example of Collegiate Gothic is in University
of Toronto. Surely it is not a coincidence that the upper section
of the tower shows a marked resemblance to Magdalen College
in Oxford. The tower sides are buttressed,
the top is battlemented, there
are lancet windows with tracery
and molded surrounds,
and each façade is speckled
with loopholes - holes in walls from which arrows were launched
in medieval times.
The bottom of the tower is the walkway, or gateway,
to the University College, the sports field, and other important
buildings. Many medieval towns had similar gateways and towers
on their fortifications separating
the outside world from the city within.