Ron Thom Biography Launched at Trent
Trent community celebrates biography chronicling one of the most important 20th century Canadian architects and designer of the iconic and award-winning Trent University Symons campus
Trent University served as a backdrop for the launch of Adele Weder’s definitive biography of Ron Thom - one of the most important figures in Canadian architectural history - who designed the iconic and award-winning Peterborough Symons campus that includes soaring modern structures, legendary furniture and intricate details of interior design.
“At the centre of Trent’s Symons Campus is one of the best-preserved clusters of mid-century modern architecture found in a university setting, making the campus an ideal location for the launch of this biography,” said Dr. Michael Eamon, co-chair of the University’s Heritage Stewardship Committee and principal of Catharine Parr Traill College.
Weder is an award-winning architectural writer, cultural journalist, and curator of the nationally traveling exhibition Ron Thom and the Allied Arts, which exhibited at Trent University in 2014. Thom is renowned for his projects, including Trent University, Fleming College, Massey College at University of Toronto, the Shaw Festival Theatre and several landmark houses across the country that continue to inspire generations of architects around the world. The biography outlines his life and work while delving into detail about how he “plunged into the epic job of designing the new standalone campus of Trent University on the outskirts of Peterborough” that would span the Otonabee River with the elegant Faryon Bridge. His initial work involved transforming several downtown buildings that could serve the University’s first cohort of students including Catharine Parr Traill College for women, and Peter Robinson College for men. Trent was the only university of the era designed as a ready-made collegiate institution with a collection of scholarly villages situated around a central library complex. The book includes pencil renderings of the master plan for the University and the Chemistry Building design, photographs of the master’s residence (now Alumni House), the exterior of Champlain College, and the Champlain dining hall ceiling. The book notes Champlain College cost $7 million to build, making it the most expensive public building in Ontario history at the time. The late T.H.B. Symons, Trent’s founding president, is quoted in the book about watching Thom’s genius at work when drawing concepts for the University. “He would draw freehand, and with just a few strokes of the pen, he would precisely conceptualize something I couldn’t even imagine,” Symons said. “It was breathtaking.” At the launch event, Weder shared details about Ron Thom and his coming of age in the mid-20th century just as the modern movement and impending building boom were about to shape the country. The book, based on more than 100 recorded interviews and extensive archival research, is billed as more than just the life story of one man but also a portrait of the society that shaped him.
About Trent University
One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.