The SALA community is remembering Andrew Gruft, Professor Emeritus, who passed away on September 29.

Born in Poland, Andrew graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town and practiced in Rio de Janeiro before arriving in Vancouver, where he was employed by Rhone & Iredale Architects and completed his most notable works. He then joined the UBC School of Architecture in 1968.

Andrew was a dedicated and passionate teacher, contributing throughout his career to various levels of design studio education and topical seminars in the arenas of history and theory. Very much an advocate of the socratic method of teaching, he was at his best in the kinds of intimate, and at times adversarial, contact with students that the UBC School of Architecture exemplified. This intellectual position occurred during design reviews with colleagues and beyond, and continued beyond his retirement in 1997. He served most recently as a member of SALA’s Advisory Council, where he was a steadfast advocate to strengthen the ties between art and architecture. 

This position was a continuation of two truly crucial classes he delivered at UBC, both of which concluded in public exhibitions and publications. The underlying topic in both was the contemporary state of the art in Canadian architecture. A surprisingly neglected field right across the country, Andrew bravely immersed himself – and importantly his students of the time – among his practising peers. The institutional prejudice against criticism of colleagues was swept aside by Andrew’s assurance that these reviews needed to be timely and unequivocally critical. The two exhibitions and attending catalogues were A Measure of Consensus: Canadian Architecture in Transition in 1986, and Substance Over Spectacle: Contemporary Canadian Architecture in 2005. Andrew also edited and wrote two volumes concerning the work of local practice Patkau Architects, evidence of his critical role in promoting the accomplishments of local professionals.

Beyond architecture, Andrew and his partner Claudia Beck opened NOVA Gallery, the city’s first commercial gallery and bookstore dedicated to photography. Their collection is recognized as one fo the most important in the country. Andrew’s contributions to the Vancouver, and wider Canadian, cultural landscape are well-documented, and will be missed. 

His at times acerbic critical tone, in retrospect, can only be admired in its unflagging optimism for the discipline of architecture and his unassailable determination to bring a sense of ambition and depth of concern to students and colleagues alike. 

The Polygon Gallery has established the Andrew Gruft Fund for Photography Exhibitions in his memory; donations can be made here