Robert Falconer Duke

According to his daughter, Marianne Newby, Robert Falconer Duke was “very British” and a traditionalist at heart even though this ethos is not indicated by his modernist style of public work and upbringing in Saskatchewan.

Robert Falconer Duke’s family emigrated to Canada when he was an infant in 1905. Born in Birkenhead, England in 1904, Duke was brought up and educated in Saskatoon, graduating from architectural training at the University of Saskatchewan in 1933. He worked as the District Resident Architect for the Dominion Department of Public Works in Saskatchewan from 1938 to 1946 at which time he moved to Edmonton for a position as assistant to the City Architect, Maxwell Dewar. When Dewar resigned in 1949, Duke took on the acting role of City Architect at first, then the full-fledged position in 1950. He resigned from this position in 1969.

His traditional style can be seen in the design of his half-timbered English Tudor Revival home, perched atop the river valley and Mill Creek Ravine. Similarly, his original bucolic design of Windsor Park flowed in a style reminiscent of an English country garden at a time when landscaped public green space was losing popularity to recreation grounds. However, Duke entered public service at a a time when the City needed to modernize and create new designs to keep up with rapid population growth. Generally with his assistant, William Tefler, Duke designed civic buildings; public utilities, like the Rossdale Water Filtration Plant; recreation structures, like the Borden Park Swimming Pool and Bandshell; and parks with playgrounds and baseball diamonds. In what architect David Murray and local historian Marianne Fedori call “an excellent and delightful example of Modern Expressionism,” and “one of the most outstanding buildings of its time in Canada”, Duke designed the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium as the city’s tribute to the visit of the Royal Family in 1959. It is the nation’s first civic planetarium and is perched at the base of the concentric design of Coronation Park; the design is a tribute to the Queen’s scepter, with the planetarium a jewel in its base.


Full Name

Robert Falconer Duke

Character Defining Elements

Brick cladding, Cantilever projections, Flat roof, Irregular footprint, Metal structure, One storey