Ray Affleck was an internationally renowned, award-winning architect, urban planner and teacher. He was born in 1922 in Penticton, British Columbia, and was raised and educated in Montreal. He graduated from McGill University in 1947 with the highest standing in his class. He was awarded the Hugh McLennan Travelling Scholarship among other prizes. This gave him the opportunity to travel in Europe where he enrolled in post-graduate studies at the Federal Technical Institute in Zurich.
Between 1949 and 1953 he worked for various Montreal-based architectural firms before setting up his own practice in the city in 1953. The firm of Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold and Sise later became known as Arcop.
In 1950 he married Betty Ann Henley and they had 5 children, Graham, Neil, Jane, Gavin and Ewan.
As an urban architect he was charmed by the qualities of Westmount and the urban qualities of the city of Montreal as a whole. He believed Westmount to be unique and thought that it benefited from the British garden city tradition. He was particularly fond of Westmount Park
which he found to be a pleasant, open space.
His first large commission was the Town of Mont Royal Post office for which he received the Massey Medal. His firm acted as associate architects for Place Ville Marie and then came work on the design of Place des Arts. His projects were often gigantic, multi-purpose buildings and from the late 1960s Arcop Associates was responsible for many substantial projects in Canada. Place Bonaventure, the Stephen Leacock Building at McGill University, Maison Alcan, Place Air Canada and Number One Wood Avenue are among his better-known Montreal buildings. His firm was involved in the design of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Winnipeg Square in Manitoba, the Arts and Culture Centre, St. John’s, Newfoundland and the Life Sciences Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax.
Beyond Canada, Mr. Affleck, together with his partner Ramesh Khosla, designed the Mughal Sheraton Hotel in Agra, India. For this they won the Aga Khan Award for architecture in 1980.
Mr. Affleck remained closely associated with the McGill University School of Architecture to which he was very committed. Described by his associates as a natural teacher, he also taught architecture at the University of Toronto, Harvard University, the University of Manitoba and the Nova Scotia Technical Institute in Halifax. Technical Institute in Halifax.
As an architect, “his concerns were tied less to a building’s ultimate appearance than to people’s experience of and movement through its internal spaces.” This is what he wrote in an architectural journal about his best known project. “Place Bonaventure is an example of a multi-use urban complex tied intimately to circulation of various kinds. The Metro, railway and automobile constitute the three main wheeled media of circulation, and are in turn linked in various ways to a complex internal pedestrian system. This, in turn, is linked to the existing exterior pedestrian system, the existing weather system, and the new mix of activities introduced by Place Bonaventure itself.” These activities consist of shopping, a cinema, exhibition halls, showrooms, office space and a 400-room hotel. Supporting these activities is a huge underground garage.
Maison Alcan, which came later (1984), won the Credit Foncier Award. With its atrium and outdoor garden, it is architecture to be experienced as well as looked at.
The list of awards Mr. Affleck received in his career is long. Along with those already mentioned are two other Massey Medals, the Canadian Centennial Medal and several from the Order of Architects of Quebec. Before his death, he learned that he was to be awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Gold Medal. This award, the Institute’s highest honour, is given internationally in recognition of architectural achievement.
Those who knew him fondly remember him as unassuming, intelligent, charismatic, gentle and having an acute sense of fairness. One of Raymond Affleck’s trademarks was his casual attire. His son Ewan said that he called a suit and tie his “store boughts” and wore them only when absolutely necessary. All agreed that Mr. Affleck, Ray to everybody, will be remembered for his way with people.