Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, a former Daniels Faculty dean, has been named the recipient of this year's Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal, a high honour reserved for those who have made significant and lasting contributions to architecture in Canada.
Lemco van Ginkel's win puts her in a category with esteemed past recipients like Gilles Saucier, André Perrotte, George Baird, and the Aga Khan.
She became the director of the School of Architecture (as the Daniels Faculty was then known) in 1977. By then, she had already had a distinguished career.
Lemco van Ginkel graduated from McGill University, where she was among the first female students ever admitted to the architecture program. She spent the 1940s and early 1950s working at a number of prestigious architecture firms, including a productive stint at Le Corbusier's atelier in Paris, during which she had a hand in designing the distinctive ventilator stacks atop the Unité d'habitation, in Marseille. She began her teaching career at the University of Pennsylvania, then taught at the University of Montreal and McGill, all the while developing a specialty in urban design.
Her notable achievements as a practitioner include studies of Old Montreal that helped preserve the city's historic core amid highway construction, a design for Bowring Park in St. John's, and a preliminary plan for Expo 67.
Lemco van Ginkel's University of Toronto School of Architecture directorship was a successful one. She is believed to have been the first woman ever to have led a school of architecture in North America. Under her direction, the school established its first study-abroad programs and repatriated the university's landscape architecture program, which had been transferred to the Faculty of Forestry in 1975. By the end of her term, in 1981, she was dean of the newly reconstituted Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. She continued teaching at the Faculty until 1993.
Lemco van Ginkel has received numerous previous honours, including the Massey Medal for Architecture (1962), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Distinguished Professor Award (1989), an honourary doctorate from the University of Aix-Marseille (2005), and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012).
The RAIC Gold Medal jury writes that Lemco van Ginkel "has had a profound influence on architectural thinking, education and practise. She has been an inspiration to generations of architects, and has consistently furthered the architectural and planning discourse through publication and practise."
In 2015, the Daniels Faculty established the Professor Blanche Lemco van Ginkel Admission Scholarship, in recognition of her achievements and leadership at the school. The award was initiated and generously supported by architect and Daniels Faculty alumnus Ho K. Sung.
Photograph by Joy von Tiedemann.