Case Study: Lethbridge University


The University


Suburban Campus

Site Planning and Development:

The university was housed in temporary facilities on the Lethbridge Junior College campus until the early1970s. Planning for a new campus started in July 1967, with UPACE (University Planning, Architecture and Consulting Engineering—a joint venture of three Toronto architectural firms) as the consultants. They were engaged to make space and site recommendations, planning for an ultimate enrolment of 5000 (Holmes 76, 115). Early planning demanded that the university’s statement of philosophy be translated into “specific planning parameters” (Holmes 115). UPACE visited Lethbridge in the spring, meeting with university officials, provincial and municipal authorities, regional planners… Four sites were considered: the college site, a north city site, an urban renewal site and a west Lethbridge site (Holmes 116).

There was some resistance to the new site, across the river from the city—mainly from Lethbridge residents and the provincial government. Residents feared that expanding to the west would limit development on the east side. The provincial university commission did not accept the recommendation for a western site, proposing a local referendum instead. The province was not willing to pay for the necessary infrastructural investments required by the site (the UPACE report called for a new bridge to improve access from the city). Students protested outside the house of the local MLA, and a rally was held following the university’s first convocation. The province eventually backed down.


The land was to be donated, and serviced, by the City of Lethbridge—commitments made before the selection of a site. Options were acquired by the City (18,000 acres for $900,000) at the chosen site. The City also acquired adjacent land that could be sold off for residential development. The sale of this land would “compensate for […] the municipal capital outlay for west side development.”  (Holmes 117).

Lethbridge Aerial 1960s

The first master plan to guide development on the new site was prepared in 1969 by Erickson/Massey Architects.

Building Organization and Design:

University-Campus-Master-Plan-2012 p 15

University Hall Section

Students were encouraged to live in residence to maximize their “exposure to and benefits from the academic experience.”

Founding Philosophy

Purpose of education:

The University of Lethbridge was founded in 1967 as “Canada’s centennial university”. It grew out of Lethbridge Junior College which was affiliated with the University of Alberta. The young university positioned itself as a small, liberal arts, undergraduate institution.
Highlights from a report prepared at a conference on the University’s academic philosophy, published in the 1967-68 University Calendar (Holmes 97):
  • The University of Lethbridge endeavours to cultivate human values; it seeks to foster intellectual growth, social development, aesthetic sensitivity, personal ethics and physical well-being; it seeks to cultivate the transcendental dimension of the scholar’s personality.
  • The University ought to be organized in such a way that individuals are encouraged to interact, but not compelled to do so.
  • Flexibility and openness innovation will be the distinguishing feature of the University of Lethbridge.
  • Notwithstanding its intention to offer diverse subject matter contributing to the acquisition of professional skills, the University regards learning as an end in itself, not merely as a means to material ends. It primary aims are to foster the spirit of free enquiry and the critical interpretation of ideas.
  • Students are invited to participate in all phase of university life The highest degree between students and faculty is encouraged, and should not be confined to the physical limits of campus.
  • The multi-disciplinary approach ought to be one of the features of the program planning.
  • It is desirable and necessary that the University should relate closely to the local community. Nevertheless, its outlook should not be determined by any regional or sectional interest. Through exposures to cosmopolitan influences and diverse cultures, the scholar is best able to evaluate his own social and cultural milieu.
  • The University asserts its right and responsibility for free expression and communication of ideas. It is self-evident that a university cannot function without complete autonomy in this domain.

Research, Business

Growth and transformation:

The University’s Faculty of Management has created satellite programs in Calgary and Edmonton. Both of these ‘campuses’ are rented(?) spaces within another  college (Bow Valley College and Concordia Lutheran College respectively).


University of Lethbridge Campus Master Plan

Arthur Erickson fonds, 1953-1970 at the Canadian Architectural Archives

Works Cited

Holmes, Owen G. Come Hell Or High Water. Lethbridge, Alta.: Lethbridge Herald, 1972.

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