Burgess, Cecil Scott

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Burgess, Cecil Scott

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1870 - 11.12.1971


Cecil Scott Burgess was born in Mumbai, India in 1870, where his father, James Burgess, was Director of the Archeological Survey. The Burgess family returned to Edinburgh, Scotland the following year. Between the years 1887 and 1891 Burgess studied at the Royal High School in Edinburgh. He graduated with a gold medal. Burgess then studied architecture as an articled pupil to Sir George Washington Browne. He completed a four-year apprenticeship, a contemporary British standard, from 1892 to 1896. After completing his apprenticeship Burgess was admitted as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). It was a typical career path for British architects to travel through offices and projects gaining a resume of design experience and Burgess was no exception; following his apprenticeship Burgess did architectural work in Edinburgh, York, London, and Liverpool. He also continued to refine his skills with European travel studying and sketching the notable buildings, designs and works of art across the continent. It was during one of his study trips in 1903 he encountered the Edinburgh architect Percy Nobbs in Italy. Nobbs was about to accept a position to teach at McGill University in the Faculty of Engineering. Upon viewing Burgess's sketchwork he encouraged him to move to Montréal where he would find opportunities as a draughtsman. Burgess recognized the opportunity and before the end of the year, he was working in his profession designing several Québec projects including the Boys Farm and Training Schoold at Shawbridge, Quebec and several Montréal homes. In Montréal Burgess began his lifelong public advocacy of the Arts and Crafts design movement through public lectures and study groups. He delivered talks at the Province of Quebec Association of Architects and spoke at such public forums as the St. James Literary Society and the Grand Trunk Literary Institute. Without a Phd, Burgess nevertheless delivered lectures and taught courses at McGill between 1909 and 1911. The courses Burgess instructed betray the Arts and Crafts school of architecture he subscribed to. The were weighted to art and history and included historical drawing, architectural history and decoration. Recognizing it unlikely he would become permanent faculty, Burgess's acquaintance with Percy Nobbs again resulted in employment. Nobbs recommended Burgess to H.M. Tory, the first president of the newly conceived University of Alberta. Through his architectural firm, Nobbs and Hyde, Nobbs worked as the principal consulting architectural firm for the University and Nobbs requiered a supervising representative on the campus to see through to completion the firm's designs. President Tory appointed Burgess Professor of Architecture in 1913. He was made responsible to superintend the design of university buildings and design courses for the university's Department of Architecture. Upon his arrival Burgess designed Pembina Hall and the original six staff residences now known as the Ring Houses. He was the supervising architect for the Arts building (1915), designed the south wing of the University Hospital, University Farm buildings and cottages and the Varsity Rink, the University ice arena (1927). As University Architect Burgess also designed versions of the University crest, furniture, and various items of ceremonial regalia for official University occaisions. In addition to campus designs, Burgess was the associate architect for the Edmonton Natural Resources Building (now the Bowker Building) for the Provincial Government, the Birks Building and numerous private houses, memorials, and small design items across Alberta.


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