Otto Maass Chemistry Building
Virtual McGill

Otto Maass Chemistry Building - view from Sherbrooke -- McGill Archives

Named after a prominent Chairman of the Department of Chemistry who was active in research during World War II, the Otto Maass Chemistry Building was built between 1964 and 1966. It was the last of the campus projects completed by the firm of Fleming and Smith, which was also responsible for the Physical Sciences Centre (now the Frank Dawson Adams Building) and the McConnell Engineering Building. This large structure at the northwest corner of Sherbrooke and University replaced some tennis courts and the Workman House, a Square Mile style abode donated to McGill by Lord Strathcona in 1904 and used for years by the Faculty of Music. It is just south of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute designed by Percy Nobbs in 1927 and connects, underground, to Burnside Hall which overshadows it to the west.

In the 1960s, functionality replaced ornament and the structure of the building itself served as the only decor. The Otto Maass Chemistry Building, which has five storeys including the basement, follows this formula. It is divided into four blocks, each of slightly different dimensions, arranged in an L-shape; three are along Sherbrooke Street and one stretches up University Street. The large units are connected by smaller, glass-walled staircase sections. The two sides of the L-shaped wings frame a terrace above ground, under which there are basement classrooms and storage rooms. The first floor of the middle block is the main entrance and also contains the largest lecture theatre which extends into the basement and can seat almost 250 students. On the floors above this level are offices and smaller classrooms. In the other three units, all of the above ground floors are dedicated to various labs and work areas. The building provides a maximum of research and lab space while trying to blend with the older edifices around it such as the Pulp and Paper Institute.

The exterior of Otto Maass is of Queenston limestone which covers the thick, supporting, concrete walls. This was the last McGill project to feature real stone, not just concrete, on the exterior. The fenestration is regular on all sides of each unit, but is broken by the glassed in stairwells. These rows of widely-spaced, small windows provide pattern to the exterior and are the only decor of the building, unlike the picturesquely placed windows of the Macdonald Physics Building nearby. The small windows combined with the blank stone exterior and the proportions of each block give the building a sturdy, rather heavy appearance. On the interior, the size of the windows does not provide enough natural light to the building and so fluorescent light is used throughout, making the interior seem controlled and cold. The concrete walls hold concrete beams which reach to the centre of each block and support the concrete floors. The core of each block is actually an open shaft that acts as ventilation for the fume hoods in the labs. Each unit is topped by a steel penthouse that contains mechanical equipment.

Back to Main Menu
Browse nearby buildings
Built 1964
Architect - Fleming and Smith
Donor - none
Current use - Department of Chemistry

Under construction - view from campus
-- McGill Archives

View from Sherbrooke
-- McGill Archives

Experiment - physical chemistry lab
-- McGill Archives

-- McGill Archives

View from campus
-- Instructional Communications Centre