Memorial for Abraham Rogatnick October 25

A memorial for one of Vancouver's most beloved arts patrons, Abraham Jedidiah Rogatnick, will be held in the Great Hall of the Law Courts buildings, 800 Smithe Street, Vancouver, at 2 pm Sunday, October 25.

Please note that the Law Courts requires that the organizers provide a guest list, so those planning to attend are asked to notify Dr. Charles Barber at

Professor Rogatnick (retired architect and Honourary Member, FRAIC), passed away in Vancouver on Sunday, August 30, 2009 at the age of 85.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923, Rogatnick entered Harvard University in 1942, where his studies interrupted by active service in World War II. He returned to Harvard and the School of Design where he studied under Walter Gropius, earning his M.Arch in 1953. He then went to Germany to study on a Fulbright foreign scholarship.

Fate brought Rogatnick and partner Alvin Balkind to Vancouver where they quickly became part of city’s cultural fabric. Within weeks they had cofounded the New Design Gallery, one the first commercial galleries in Canada devoted to contemporary art and a showcase for budding Vancouver artists and architects. 

Rogatnick later went on to co-found the Arts Club Theatre.

Rogatnick worked with a number of local architectural firms during his early years in Vancouver: McCarter, Nairne and Partners; Davidson and Davidson; Gardiner Thornton Gathe Architects.

In 1959, Rogatnick was hired as an associate professor at the University of British Columbia. For several decades he taught the History of Architecture and Design, as well as Urban History. He became known for his entertaining teaching style and dramatic flair, a harbinger of his later career on stage.

In 1969 he established the university’s Studies Abroad program. He was also a visiting lecturer at the International University of Art (Venice-Florence), Istituto di Architettura (Venice), Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, and Waseda University (Tokyo). He retired from UBC in 1985, having earned the university’s Master Teacher Award. It was then that he officially took up acting.

Named a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1971, Rogatnick’s architectural knowledge was second to none (he was particularly regarded for his expertise on Venice). He was also an expert on history, art and urban planning. For a time he worked with the City of Vancouver Planning Department as well as its Heritage Advisory Board.

Aside from architecture, Rogatnick’s other passion was art. He made it his lifelong task to study the function of the world’s greatest galleries. He served as architectural advisor for the National Gallery of Canada, and supervised the compilation of the gallery’s architectural program. He even spent a year as interim director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Rogatnick collaborated with B.C. Binning in the 1960s to organize the UBC Festivals of the Contemporary Arts, and was actively involved with the Community Arts Council of Vancouver and Vancouver Art School. Over the years he was invited to speak at countless galleries across the country. He later collected an honourary doctorate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

From 1980 to 1982, Rogatnick was a Lieutenant Governor’s Appointee to AIBC Council. In 1990, the AIBC awarded Rogatnick the title of Honourary Member. He is also a past recipient of the AIBC’s Barbara Dalrymple Award for Community Service.

Small in physical stature, he was a man of boundless energy and strong, passionate voice. He was known for a keen mind and sharp sense of humour. He was also known for the encouragement and support he gave to many young architects, and unfailing commitment to the city that became his home.

Abraham Rogatnick was an architect and artist, lecturer and teacher, advisor and mentor, intellectual and academic, philanthropist and world traveler, actor and author. He made a remarkable contribution to Vancouver’s architecture and art communities. He had an indelible influence on his city, and on generations of architects who continue to shape it. 

Article courtesy of Architectural Institute of British Columbia. 

Photo courtesy of Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.


©2019 BC Alliance for Arts + Culture. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy