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Barry Graham, In Memorial, 1938-2022

Barry Wayne Graham was born in Turtleford in Northern Saskatchewan on June 30, 1938. During high school, Barry developed a talent for drawing and painting which he pursued throughout his life. As a teenager, he sold paintings to earn money. Following high school, he moved to Calgary to work as a lab technician for Imperial Oil. At the urging of a supervisor who recognized his intellect and potential, he made the decision to pursue a career in architecture.

At a time when most aspiring architects in Western Canada stayed close to home for their education, Barry left Canada to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering at Washington State University. Completed in 1967, this education instilled in him a deep appreciation for the role of structure in architecture. In 1968, following his studies at Washington State, he embarked on a master’s degree program at the University of Minnesota in Architecture and Urban Design, led, at that time, by the great Ralph Rapson. 

Upon graduation, Barry moved to Calgary and joined the newly formed architectural firm, DS Stevens and Partners.

Seeking a better understanding of the role of the public sector in city planning, Barry joined the City of Calgary Planning Department in 1971. Through sketches and studies, he helped craft the emerging Calgary +15 planning bylaw, ensuring that the developers of Calgary’s growing Downtown were incentivized to expand Calgary’s innovative elevated indoor pedestrian system.  

In 1972, he returned to DS Stevens as a partner. Barry led the firm’s growth into one of the leading design firms in Alberta. Through its growth, it evolved into Stevens, Graham, McConnell, Milton and Partners; Graham McCourt; Graham Edmunds; Graham Edmunds Cartier; now simply GEC Architecture, with studios in Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto. The firm became known as an incubator for young architects who went on to start their own practices.

Love of the western Canadian landscape flows through Barry’s work. This is seen in his design for the Athabasca Bridges in Jasper National Park—a site of considerable beauty and environmental sensitivity. The team went to great lengths to ensure careful integration into the environment and respect the dramatic canyon landscape.

Barry was an avid recreational baseball and hockey player and a back-country skier. His interest in athletic and recreational projects, combined with his ability to lead a large architectural and engineering team, led to the firm’s selection as the designer of two major building projects for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. These were the Olympic Saddledome (completed in 1983 and now named the Scotiabank Saddledome) and the Olympic Speed Skating Oval (completed in 1988). Both projects received numerous awards both in Canada and the United States.

The Saddledome was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on September 27, 1987, and honoured by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada at its millennium celebration of architecture in 2000. Its iconic image has become synonymous with Calgary.

The firm’s Medicine Hat City Hall received a Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, Canada’s highest award for architecture. In 2003, the Saddledome, the Olympic Speed Skating Oval and Medicine Hat City Hall were recognized in the Alberta Association of Architects’ Chronicle of Significant Architecture.

The Saddledome’s success led to the firm’s commission as Design Architect for the Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota, completed in 1993. In 2007, Sports Illustrated listed the Mariucci Arena as one of the top ten venues in College Sports. The Mariucci Arena was the only ice hockey arena to make the list.

Barry made a significant contribution to his community and his profession. He served for four years on the Calgary Planning Commission. He was recognized as a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada for his distinctive service to the profession and the community. He was a Past President of the Alberta Association of Architects. He was a member of the Board of the Canadian Housing Design Council, a regional director of the Council of Fellows for the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, a member of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia and a Licensed Architect in the State of Minnesota. Barry participated in several design studios at the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design. 

An avid bird hunter, Barry trained and hunted with his beloved Labradors on the Southern Alberta prairie. His love of the prairie translated into an appreciation for simple and powerful forms and unpretentious architecture. A skilled carpenter and woodworker, he constructed a small hunting cabin South of Drumheller on a close friend’s ranch. His pride in this cabin was at least as great as his pride in the Saddledome.

Fiercely intelligent, fearlessly honest and endowed with an insightful and pointed sense of humour, Barry left a deep impression on his family, friends and professional colleagues. 

Barry died on December 26, 2022. He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Dar, and five children, Jason, Stephanie, Jennifer, Marah and Whitney, along with innumerable other friends, colleagues and family members. Barry was predeceased by his parents William Earle and Margrethe (nee Wang) Graham, as well as his 6 siblings Richard “Dick” Robert Graham 1920–1942, Jean Evelyn Graham (Dermody) 1922–2012, Donna May Graham (Barnes) 1925–1978, William “Bill” Gordon Graham 1928–2018, James “Jim” Robin Graham 1931–2007 and Marina Patricia Graham (Saunders) 1936–1986.

Everyone who remembers him is asked to celebrate Barry’s life and achievements in their own way; however, Barry would surely suggest raising a glass of scotch in his memory as most appropriate.

He leaves a lasting legacy of achievement, a profound imprint on Calgary’s skyline, and a chasm in our hearts.  

Calgary Herald Article

As his building lives on, architect of the Saddledome and much of Calgary’s character passes away

Described as a “giant” in the Calgary architecture world, Barry Wayne Graham’s work outside the Saddledome have become some of the city’s defining pieces of infrastructure. Graham passed away in December at 84.

Author of the article: Bill Kaufmann

Published Jan 17, 2023  •  4 minute read

Calgary Herald Obituaries