Annmarie Adams

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Annmarie Adams
Annmarie Adams in 2013.jpg
Annmarie Adams speaking at an IGSF event in February 2013
Born 1960
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley, MArch and PhD
McGill University, BA
Awards John K. Branner Travelling Fellowship from the University of California at Berkeley, 1985-86
E. McClung Fleming Fellowship in American Cultural, Social, and Intellectual History from the Winterthur Museum in 1991-92
Jason Hannah Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, 1999
William Dawson Scholar McGill University, 2000
Woman of Distinction Award from the YWCA, category Science and Technology, 2002
William C. Macdonald chair McGill University, 2005
Arcus Endowment Scholar-in-Residence Award from the College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley, 2008
Scientific career
Fields Architectural History
History of Medicine
Women's Studies
Institutions McGill University

Annmarie Adams (born 1960) is an architectural historian and university professor. Currently she is the Chair of the Department of Social Studies of Medicine and is the former Director of the School of Architecture at McGill University. Adams specializes in healthcare architecture and gendered space. At McGill she teaches courses in architectural history and research methods.[1]She is the inaugural holder of the Stevenson Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science, including Medicine.

Early life and education[edit]

Adams grew up in London, Ontario where she attended local elementary and high schools. She then studied at Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland and at McGill University, earning an Honours degree in Art History in 1981. As a student she had a variety of jobs, including waitress, bank teller, and road construction worker on the rebuilding of the Alaska Highway. In 1982, she entered the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1986 with a Master of Architecture. In 1985-86, as a recipient of the John K. Branner traveling scholarship, she traveled widely with two classmates, A. Melissa Harris and Cathy Schwabe, experiencing the architecture of Western Europe. Upon her return, she entered the Ph.D. program in Architecture at UC Berkeley, supervised by Dell Upton. Adams’ approach to architectural history was very much shaped by her education. As a McGill undergraduate she studied with Peter Collins, who encouraged her to become an architect; at UC Berkeley she was influenced by Upton, Spiro Kostof, and Paul Groth.


Adams was hired by McGill University in 1990, becoming the first tenure-track woman professor in the School of Architecture. She graduated with her Ph.D. in 1992.

Although Adams studied art history, her approach to architectural history focuses on ordinary rather than extraordinary places. She is particularly interested in how a diversity of users understands and experiences architecture, especially marginalized groups such as women and children. The research methodology that she often engages is known as Cultural Landscapes, a perspective founded by landscape historian and writer J.B. Jackson in the 1950s.

As a researcher and writer, Adams has focused on a diversity of building types: suburban and wartime houses, hospitals, nurses’ homes, doctors' home-offices, gas stations, and Tuberculosis sanatoria. Interior spaces which have undergone her scrutiny include kitchens, birthing rooms, surgical suites, hospital atria, and children’s bedrooms.

She is also interested in new ways to exhibit architectural history and has curated exhibitions at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), McGill University, Concordia University, and the Design Exchange in Toronto.

Adams focused on domestic architecture in the 1990s and turned to hospital environments about 2000. A paper comparing the intentions and experience of women and children in suburban California established research questions to which Adams would return repeatedly.[2] How do buildings express behavioral expectations and do users of houses simply do what they are told? She followed this up with studies of wartime housing in Canada;[3] privacy and girlhood in 19th-century Quebec;[4] and sick children and maternal care.[5] More recently, she and colleagues contributed to an award-winning website, Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, by showcasing the role of a Montreal house in an unsolved double murder.[6]

Adams also continued her interest in women architects, publishing a co-authored book and several journal articles on the subject in the 1990s. Following a sabbatical in 1999-2000, Adams turned to hospital environments. One of the central arguments of Adams’ hospital work is that healthcare environments are shaped by large cultural factors, rather than medical progress, an argument that counters the traditional narrative told by many historians of medicine. Her historical work has also extended into current debates in healthcare architecture, including debates on the medical function of hospital lobby spaces. She has been a consistent critic of the planned McGill University Health Centre.

Adams has received numerous awards for her academic work including the President's Medal for Media in Architecture (2017) from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Hilda Neatby Prize (1994) from the Canadian Historical Association (CHA), the Jason Hannah Medal (1999) from the Royal Society of Canada (RSA), and a Woman of Distinction award (2002) from the Montreal YWCA.[7][8] In 2016 she was awarded the Christophe Pierre Award from McGill's Faculty of Engineering in recognition of excellence in research.

She has served in administrative roles including a Curator of the Osler Library and Director of the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) at McGill University in 2010-11.[9] While she was Director of the School of Architecture (2011–15), she served as Chair of the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA) and as a board member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). In June 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the RAIC.

She is married to social historian Peter Gossage and they have two children.


Architecture in the Family Way: Doctors, Houses, and Women, 1870-1900. 1996. McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 9780773513860

  • Contrary to the widely held belief that the home symbolized a refuge and safe haven to Victorians, Adams reveals that middle-class houses were actually considered poisonous and dangerous and explores the involvement of physicians in exposing "unhealthy" architecture and designing improved domestic environments.

“Designing Women”: Gender and the Architectural Profession. (co-written with Peta Tancred) 2000. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9780802082190

  • Adams and Tancred examine the issue of gender and its relation to the larger dynamics of status and power. They argue that many women architects have reacted with ingenuity to the difficulties they have faced, making major innovations in practice and design.

Medicine by Design: The Architect and the Modern Hospital, 1893-1943. 2008. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9780816651146

  • Medicine by Design examines how hospital design influenced the development of twentieth-century medicine and demonstrates the importance of these specialized buildings in the history of architecture.


  1. ^ "Annmarie Adams". Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  2. ^ Adams, Annmarie. "The Eichler Home: Intention and Experience in Postwar Suburbia" (PDF). Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ Adams, Annmarie; Sijpkes, Pieter (1995). "Wartime Housing and Architectural Change, 1942-1992" (PDF). Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Adams, Annmarie; Gossage, Peter (1998). "Chez Fadette: Girlhood, Family, and Private Space in Late-Nineteenth-Century Saint-Hyacinthe" (PDF). Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  5. ^ Adams, Annmarie; Gossage, Peter (2008). "Sick Children and the Thresholds of Domesticity: The Dawson-Harrington Families at Home" (PDF). Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ Adams, Annmarie; Theodore, David (2003). "The Redpath Mansion Mystery". Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Annmarie Adams". 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Women's Y Foundation Montreal". 2002. Retrieved May 2, 2017. 
  9. ^ Adams, Annmarie (2011). "Farewell from Outgoing Director". Retrieved June 2, 2013. 

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