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Marco L. Polo

Marco Polo

Areas of Specialization

Criticism: Contemporary Canadian Architecture

History: Canadian Architecture since 1945

Regionalism in Canadian Architecture

Cultural dimensions of Sustainability

Architecture and Culture


Year University Degree
1985 University of British Columbia BArch
1981 University of British Columbia BA

Selected Courses

Course Code Course Title
ARC 720 Architecture Option Studio
ASC 301 Design Studio II
ASC 406 Ideas, Technologies and Precedents III
ASC 733, AR8206 Canadian Architecture Since 1945


Marco Polo has a fascination with Canadian architecture, and it’s one he’s eager to share with his students. “They are often drawn to international superstars,” he says, “but it’s important to get them excited about the Canadian scene.” To do so, Polo introduces them to exemplary projects, including Patkau Architects' Audain Art Museum in Whistler, Clifford Wiens' open-air Silton Chapel in rural Saskatchewan, and the mesmerizing Bahá'í Temple in Chile by Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini Architects.

According to Polo, there are many reasons why students don’t often know much about Canadian architecture. Many nations, especially geographically small mono-cultures with long histories, have a clearer design identity. “There's also the challenge of our extreme climate, which drives an emphasis on building performance over dramatic expression.”

Polo, who brings his grad students to the Venice Bienniale every two years, believes that studying global architecture is crucial. However, he maintains that it’s just as important to look within our own borders for inspiration. “While our harsh climate can inhibit how dramatic our designs can be,” he says, “our ability to work creatively with those constraints has made us some of the best technical architects and builders in the world.”

Marco Polo

“In the Canadian climate, buildings have to be robust. That’s part of our architectural identity.”

  • Elected to College of Fellows, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (2010)
  • Selected to represent Canada at the 11th Biennale of Architecture, Venice, Italy (2008)
  • Recipient of Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science Research Excellence Award (2006)
  • “Goodbye to all that”. Canadian Architect, Vol. 62, No. 11 (November 2017), p. 66.
  • “Architecture and National Identity: The Centennial Projects 50 Years On. Marco Polo and Colin Ripley in conversation with Amery Calvelli”. Utopia Factory. Lisa Baldissera, ed. Calgary: Contemporary Calgary, 2017, pp. 45-56.
  • Polo, Marco and Colin Ripley, “Confederation Centre for the Arts”. Canadian Architect, Vol. 60, No. 3 (March 2015), p. 34.
  • Polo, Marco and Colin Ripley, Architecture and National Identity: The Centennial Projects 50 Years On. Halifax, NS: Dalhousie Architectural Press, 2014.
  • Curator, Paul H. Cocker Gallery, Department of Architectural Science, Toronto Metropolitan University (since January 2014)
  • Member, Awards Committee, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (since March 2015)
  • Member, Canadian Architectural Certification Board Visiting Team, McGill University, Montreal, QC. March 17-21, 2018.
  • Member, Canadian Architectural Certification Board Visiting Team, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB. February 28-March 4, 2015.
  • Member, Canadian Architectural Certification Board Visiting Team, Université Laval, Québec, QC. March 16-20, 2013.
  • Jury member, Gregory H. Woods Fellowship in Collaborative Design, Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, March 2016.
  • Jury Chair, Ontario Association of Architects Awards of Excellence, February 2014.