I'm gonna say it comes down to the almighty $$$
^ Yes and no, I’d say. I think it’s a big factor, but at the same time it’s hard to say definitively as it wasn’t one historically. The UofA only had a School of Architecture until 1940, when its one professor, Cecil S. Burgess, finally retired. Yet that didn’t stop Edmonton from producing genuinely great looking buildings well into the ‘80s. Most of our architects between 1940 and 1980 were Edmontonians trained at the University of Manitoba, who came back home to practice. You kinda alluded to it, but I think it’s more of a question of “what reason is there to be an architect in Edmonton” or “why should I go there versus some mecca like Toronto or Vancouver?” Because even if we did have a school, what’s to stop our graduates from just going elsewhere afterwards? It’s a case of perception I think.
And this is a very good point too. I think that a problem is that architecture just isn't in the public view as much anymore. Like of course buildings are everywhere, people voice their opinions on them, the news reports when new ones are being built, etc. But when it comes to actual talks about architecture, the brass-tacks, you don't don't ever hear much about the why and how of architecture. Surfing through decades worth of Edmonton Journal articles, you notice there's so many columns and reports that discuss (then) new buildings going up. Nearly every one of those, without fail, goes into depth describing the building, the techniques employed, the materials used, often quoting the architects themselves on why certain things were done, or what certain elements represent. And again, that’s still done today, but far less frequently. I suppose that spirals into its own topic of discussion about local news and its increasing focus on national events, sensational events, or whatever, but like you say, a real “voice” — and in this case a good one for the laymen — has been lost over the decades since, and has probably contributed to a sort of lack of awareness.Aside from producing graduates who might be able to work here, I think it would also be beneficial to have an architecture school here simply for the voice it could provide out in the public realm. A strong voice like that coming from a place of expertise would have a positive impact/influence on how the public and decision makers view architecture in the city.
Agreed. It's great that we have so many strong educaitonal institutions, but the brain drain is real afterwards. I studied business at the UofA and now live in the GTA. Most of my friends moved to calgary, vancouver, toronto or cali also. Jobs drive most of it. I'm hopeful that remote working and cost of living could encourage more people to consider places like Edmonton though. Very cheap compared to most big cities. Any ideas on what could help edmonton attract and retain young architects and other higher-ed professions?Edmonton "suffers" (if you want to call it that) from a malaise where the number of A-line educational institutions is disproportionate to the population -- and several of these have an international reputation. I want to remind everyone that Athabasca University has an excellent Architectural program and, since I have both taught classes and taken classes at a number of different institutions (including Athabasca), I feel somewhat qualified to judge. And, jointly, I and others are bringing an architectural star back to the City in the person of Douglas Cardinal and his entourage to be resided in the Pendennis Hotel Building when we can outpace COVID-19.
^^^^ I can give an opinion but it is only the opinion of one person. Edmonton has always been viewed as a "young" City growing in response to rapid population increases. So it makes mistakes in growth patterns and future projections -- I must say that Mayor Mandel had a reasonably good grasp on what it was that Edmonton needed and he worked hard to get the City there -- and it has some fairly ineffectual administrative bodies that just don't "get it". Architecturally speaking, I don't think that Edmonton is so badly off; it has some outstanding buildings and based on what is coming (noted on this site) is in line for many more. The biggest problem in my view is that Edmonton lacks "community" and a clear understanding of what that means. That is not to say that there aren't specific pockets about the City -- U of A has a good sense of community (especially after HUB was built); Old Strathcona has a good sense of community built around an historic infrastructure prerogative with the input of some exceptional developers and architects and planners (Beljan jumps out here as a developer who "gets it" and the alley-revival works in a positive fashion). MacEwan U. is working to create that same sense of community in a linear fashion, enhanced as @Daveography noted just recently by the random creation of a downtown "Education district" -- a community! 104th street has a bit of that. And the Civic Centre is also working towards that "community" goal.
Everything related to community should be measured by how effective an impetus is at putting engaged people on the street (WEM figured that out so many years ago -- in fact let's stop here -- I think no one would consider WEM an architectural gem; it might actually be the polar opposite -- but it has planned the place so that people can be engaged beyond the mere aspect of shopping mecca -- the self-imposed question that should be asked is "why is that so?", and does it have lessons for the rest of the City).
Here is a list of the communities that Edmonton has that with the proper input could change the way the City is viewed way into the future:
1. Alberta Avenue tied to both NAIT and the former Northlands site.
2. 124th Street tied to intersection nodes that include Jasper Avenue, 102nd Avenue, 104th Avenue, 107th Avenue, 111th Avenue and 118th Avenue
3. the CPR vacant lands adjacent to Old Strathcona
4. Bonnie Doon
5. Commonwealth Stadium area
6. Kingsway Mall area
7. Jasper Avenue West
8. Mill Woods Town Centre
What do these areas need? certainly not and infusion of planters, benches and novel street paving. Typically they need engagement factors and, without listing them to make this post unbearably long, again just think WEM, UofA, and Old Strathcona -- the mix of retail and hospitality, the people draw, the entertainment.
Edmonton "suffers" (if you want to call it that) from a malaise where the number of A-line educational institutions is disproportionate to the population -- and several of these have an international reputation. I want to remind everyone that Athabasca University has an excellent Architectural program and, since I have both taught classes and taken classes at a number of different institutions (including Athabasca), I feel somewhat qualified to judge. And, jointly, I and others are bringing an architectural star back to the City in the person of Douglas Cardinal and his entourage to be resided in the Pendennis Hotel Building when we can outpace COVID-19.