Open Letter re. Proposed Demolition of the Ring Houses on North Campus, University of Alberta

Published on February 12, 2021

The University of Alberta has announced a plan to demolish the four Ring Houses and return them to green space, on the grounds that these properties “do not align with the academic and research mission and fiscal plan” of the university.

These properties are all over a century old, dating back to the earliest years of the University. They were all designed by the university’s first (and only) professor of architecture, Cecil Scott Burgess. Ring House One, the second-oldest building on campus, was built in 1912 to serve as the home of the university President. It served that function from 1912 until 1959, housing the first five presidents of the university, beginning with Henry Marshall Tory.

Great universities commonly devote care and resources to preserving their historic buildings, which not only provide a visible connection to the university’s past but also signify the prestige and distinction of the institution. There is expertise on campus (e.g. in the Department of Art and Design, the School of Urban and Regional Planning and other academic units) that could and should be consulted before deciding that there is no viable option for preservation of these buildings.

We, the undersigned, call on the University of Alberta to suspend the planned demolition of Ring Houses One, Two, Three and Four for a minimum of twelve months. We further call on the University to initiate a public consultation, on campus and off, including via the U of A Alumni Association and with donor communities, about the possible preservation of the Ring Houses and their integration into the future of the university, and to undertake a serious good-faith effort to seek donor funding for their preservation.

To add your name to the list of signatories, visit this link. The list of signatories will be updated below regularly.

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