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The Evolution of Schulich

By Sherri Tran, BBA 2020

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“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” – Winston Churchill


When walking through the doors of Schulich, we are taken back by its beauty, grace, and a sense of timeliness. The building looks better with ageaccompanied by a welcoming feeling that allows us to treat it as our home away from home; this is no accident. “Architecture is responsible for a lot of things,” and this is what James McKellar wanted students, faculty members, and visitors to feel.


McKellar has been a part of the Schulich community since 1991. Having been educated in architecture and urban planning, he brought with him his unique skills and an intriguing background. McKellar was hired as a professor to run the real estate program, which is now the Brookfield Center in Real Estate and Infrastructure. Fortunately, for both him and for Schulich, his background was a perfect and natural fit. With “an opportunity to… shape the school and bring [his] own unique talents,” McKellar assisted in shaping the culture of the Schulich community through his passionarchitecture.


Advocating that “good architecture is a good influence” and with his passion to grow the community, McKellar acts as Schulich’s own in-house architect and has taken the lead on four different projects: the Miles S. Nadal Management Centre, Seymour Schulich Building, the Schulich India Campus, and the upcoming Graduate Study and Research Building. McKellar aided with the proposal to SuperBuild, a fund that supports post-secondary projects, for our current building. He has also overseen, coordinated, and is still heavily involved with all four initiatives. Thus, we shifted from our old building, now known as the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, to where we are today.


The process was a long and successful journey as our building has come to symbolize “the Schulich brand.” We often beam towards the Seymour Schulich Building in awe. The stunning imagery may lead us to wonder what exactly distinguishes our building from the rest. Partially, it is due to the integration of the different “components [that] make up what Schulich is,” such as the marketplace, the market café, the students, and many other elements that ultimately intertwine. However, the absolute secret is daylight and the “relationship of indoor and outdoor space;” essential to our everyday life and a serene scene to admire.


After witnessing Schulich continuously evolve, it is hard to imagine what is next in line. McKellar has no doubt that the evolution will not end as “each time [they’ve] done something [new], [there are] new opportunities.” For instance, the new graduate building “keep[s] the best features in Schulich,” but are taken to a new level. It will include a media production centre, a fitness centre, a wellness centre, a marketplace, and more lounge space. With a thermally active design, implementing advanced technology to reduce energy consumption, Schulich continues to be a trailblazer in the art of being sustainable.


In a sense, McKellar has grown and evolved with Schulich, witnessing and being a part of all the changes, structurally and culturally. After many years of being part of the community, observing students from different backgrounds, and pursuing different careers, he has come to notice that “things are often separated into silos.” Regardless of whether it is a skill or a course, everything should be intertwined and should coexist with one another. It is also important to “understand the power of the soft subjects because grades do not conclude performance in the real world.”

Looking back, “there wasn’t an opportunity [Schulich] didn’t grab,” and while McKellar has branched away from the practice of architecture, there is no doubt that he had built up from that base. He created a “platform of learning” for both himself and his students, promoting that “most of what you learn in life is through your eyes.” With that, there is truly an endless amount of possibilities and things to discover, such as the importance of art and culture and how it deeply affects our lives.

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