Galbraith Building

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Galbraith Building
Galbraith Building
Location 35 St. George Street
Year Constructed 1960
Building Code GB
Architects Page & Steele Architects
Major Offices/Labs
Department of Civil Engineering
Office of the Registrar
First Year Office
Engineering Outreach & Admissions Office
Michael E. Charles Faculty Council Chamber
Mark Huggins Structures Lab

The Galbraith Building, named for John Galbraith (the first Dean of Engineering) and located on 35 St. George Street, was completed in 1960 as the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering experienced a period of rapid expansion from the late 1940s to 1950s. It was constructed at a cost of $7 million, and was designed by Page and Steele architects (who later redesigned the interior of the Sandford Fleming Building after it was destroyed by a fire). It currently houses many of the Faculty's main operations, including the Registrar's Office, the First Year Office, the Civil Engineering Department, and most notably, the CIV102 TAs' offices where they hold weekly office hours.

Departments and Offices[edit | edit source]

  • Office of the Registrar (GB157)
  • Admissions Office (GB153)
  • First Year Office (GB170)
  • Student Recruitment and Outreach Office (GB173)
  • Math Help Office
  • Office of Advancement, Alumni Relations (GB116)
  • Department of Civil Engineering (GB105)
  • Michael E. Charles Faculty Council Chamber (GB202)
  • CIV102 TAs' office (GB 213D; office hours take place in GB217 however)

Notable Laboratories[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Architects' concept art of Galbraith Building, c. 1959-60

The Galbraith Building was constructed as part of the University of Toronto's expansion program in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The university underwent an unprecedented growth during this period, which also saw the construction of the Margaret Addison Residence, the Dental Building, Loretto College, Benson Building, Sidney Smith Hall, Edward Johnson Building, and the Victoria College Library, among others.

It was evident to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering for many years that a new building would be required to accommodate the growing number of students and Faculty members. As early as 1910, the Dean had appealed for new space and the replacement of the old Engineering Building ("The Little Red Skulehouse" as it came to be known). However, construction of a new dedicated building for engineering would be stalled by surrounding developments as well as the two World Wars.

It was not until the late 1950s that a new building was approved by the Board of Governors, on a budget of about $7 million.[1] In the meantime, the Department of Civil Engineering had grown too large for the original Engineering Building, and was forced to share space with the Department of Electrical Engineering in the Electrical Building (now the Rosebrugh Building), which has been described as "prison-like" by Faculty of the time. At this time, several developments were expected to change the face of the Skule™ campus, including the planned demolition of the old "Skulehouse" within the decade, and the construction of a new physics building which would free up the Sandford Fleming Building (then known as the old Physics Building) for engineering. Indeed, the new Galbraith building was to be connected to the western end of the old Physics Building and function as one interconnected structure.

To facilitate the construction of the Galbraith Building, the old Forestry Building (now known as the Physical Geography Building) was physically moved 200 feet north from its location just north of the Wallberg Building to its current location just west of Convocation Hall. It was lifted from its foundations by a series of jacks, and moved with steel rollers on a set of rails by manual labour at a rate of several inches per day.

Galbraith Building in March 1961, shortly after the official opening ceremonies. It had been in use for several months prior to this point.

Excavation began in the summer of 1959 for the Galbraith Building, which was designed by the architectural firm Page and Steele, and constructed by the contractors The Foundation Company.

The cornerstone was laid on May 24, 1960[2] - and it is said that the original barrel of the Skule Cannon Mark II was laid into the cornerstone of the Galbraith Building.

The building was ready for limited occupancy by the opening term in September of 1960, despite a 5-month long steelworker strike in the U.S. which affected construction across the continent.

The Galbraith Building was officially opened on the seventh of March 1961 by the Honourable J. Keiller Mackay, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The building was created to provide for the teaching of Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Aeronautical Engineering. It also contains the Dean's Office, the Faculty Office, the Council Room, and Common Rooms for the staff and students.

To mark the occasion of the opening of the Building, a special convocation was held on the preceding evening, at which the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on William Percy Dobson, Henri Gaudefroy, Paul Gray Hoffman, John Hamilton Parkin and John Bertram Stirling. Dr. Hoffman gave the address to Convocation. As part of the opening day ceremonies, three scientific lectures were given by distinguished engineers.[3]

Dean McLaughlin's Speech at the Opening Ceremonies[edit | edit source]

Dean R.R. McLaughlin's speech of March 1961 at the opening ceremonies provides insight into the plans and hopes of the Faculty at that time:[3]:

   It is almost forty years since any additional accommodation has been made available to Civil and Electrical Engineering, and Aeronautical Engineering has entered as a newcomer during that interval, as indicated during the conferring of the LL.D. degree on Dr. Parkin last evening. When one considers the advances that have taken place in those disciplines, quite apart from the growth in numbers of students that has taken place and is projected, I think it can be fairly concluded that the University has not acted precipitately in making available these splendid new quarters. It might also be remembered that the old engineering building, now obsolete for engineering purposes, has been abandoned in the process, so that there is only a net gain and not a gross gain in space. Many of our graduates gaze with nostalgic- regret at the abandonment of the beloved "little red schoolhouse", but I say to them in all good humour that they would not wish for long to carry on their own engineering operations within it.
   Tribute should be paid to the architects, Messrs. Page & Steele, to the contractors, The Foundation Company, and to the Superintendent, Mr. Hastie, and his staff for having so much of the building ready for occupancy at the opening of Term last September, despite a five-month steel strike in the U.S., and, more importantly, in having produced such a thoroughly functional and at the same time eye-pleasing building.
   As an arresting overstatement it has been said that much early and fundamental research was accomplished with little more than some sealing wax and a bit of string. Those days are gone. Professor Tracy's digital computer, which arrived just yesterday, represents quite a bit of sealing wax, Professor Morrison's million-pound testing machine which has not yet arrived but for which a hole in the ground waits in the Strength of Materials Laboratory, represents some miles of string, and Professor Patterson's shock-tubes represent goodness knows what. But they all indicate the need for modern equipment in a modern setting in order that this University may continue to give top-ranking instruction to undergraduate and graduate engineering students. The staff are fully appreciative of the splendid building and equipment made available, and will strive to their utmost to use these facilities for the purpose for which they have been provided.
    I do not intend to indulge in any statistics - the statistics are all about you, and I hope you will examine the building as much as you wish. It is not yet in full use as it was completed only a very short time ago and it was quite unpractical to move undergraduate laboratories in mid-term, but there is much to see that is representative of what the rest will be like. We are proud of our new home, and thank you for joining us in our house-warming.

Structure and Architecture[edit | edit source]

Galbraith Building in 1962

The Galbraith Building, much like many buildings at the University constructed in the mid-twentieth century, is said to be designed in the spare International Style

with its clean geometric lines and exposed concrete structural elements. It is a kind of "square donut" built around a courtyard (known to most students as the "GB Quad"). The main architectural features consist of regular concrete columns and beams forming bays filled by dark and light-brown brick. On the north side, the columns are clad with limestone.[4]

Becca's H

The steel sculpture at the front of the building on the West side is known as Becca's H, donated to the Faculty in 1973 and designed by Robert Gray Murray, a Canadian sculptor known for his abstract designs. The minimalist red sculpture is so named because it is shaped like the letter "H" and is dedicated to the artist's daughter, Rebecca.[5] The plaque in front of the sculpture reads: "Presented by grateful alumni and friends to commemorate the centennial of the founding of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering University of Toronto 1873-1973."


  1. University of Toronto Engineering Society, Skule Handbook, 1959-1960
  2. White, Richard. The Skule Story. University of Toronto Press, 2000.
  3. 3.0 3.1 University of Toronto. Galbraith Building: Opening Ceremonies. University of Toronto Press, 1961.
  4. L.W. Richards, The Campus Guide: University of Toronto (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).