A definitive biography of an iconic Canadian architect—and a social portrait of the midcentury design world he lived in.
Ron Thom came of age in the mid-20th century, just as the modern movement and an impending building boom were about to reshape the country. Talented in music and art as well as design, he rejected sleek austerity in favor of modern architecture that is warm, intimate, and beautiful. He worked from coast to coast, and his most renowned buildings—Massey College, Trent University, the Shaw Festival Theatre, and landmark houses—continue to inspire generations of architects, as well as the legions of people who work, study, visit, and live in them.
In Adele Weder’s new biography, Thom emerges as a complex figure, gifted with creative genius but pursued by demons. More than just the life story of one man, this book is a portrait of the society that shaped him. His world included Jack Shadbolt, Arthur Erickson, the Massey family, Barbara and Murray Frum, and many other luminaries of 20th-century Canada.
To unpack this multifaceted story, Weder pored through institutional and personal archives in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Peterborough, and Toronto. She tracked down and interviewed Thom’s surviving friends, colleagues, and family members across the country, from New Brunswick to Vancouver Island. Her extensive research serves as the bedrock for Ron Thom, Architect—a book for anyone interested in a transformative era in Canada's cultural history.
About the author
Adele Weder is an architectural writer, curator and cultural journalist whose work has been published in design journals and anthologies across North America. She lives in Vancouver and Haida Gwaii, British Columbia.
"A terrific book—historically necessary and worthy of its subject. Also a great read."
—Douglas Coupland, author of City of Glass
"This wonderful study of Ron Thom's genius helped explain to me the difference between a humdrum shelter and something akin to a miracle.”
—John Fraser, master emeritus of Massey College and author of Eminent Canadians
"Ron Thom is one of the most important—and misunderstood—figures in Canadian architectural history, and this compelling and meticulously researched biography sets the record straight."
—Elsa Lam, editor of Canadian Architect and coauthor / editor of Canadian Modern Architecture