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B. Arch., O.A.A., M.R.A.I.C.


Elmar Tampold


The Chair of Estonian Studies at the University of Toronto is named for its chief architect and benefactor, Elmar Tampõld, whose unparalleled vision and energy as a professional architect and leader in the Toronto Estonian community initiated the foundation of an academic base for Estonian studies in North America.

Elmar Tampõld was born on 3 August 1920 in Käina, Hiiumaa, Estonia. He graduated from the Kärdla Reaalkool in Hiiumaa in 1938, and pursued his studies at Tallinn Teachers’ College, graduating in 1941. In 1943 he enrolled in the Technical University in Tallinn, but the war years interrupted his education temporarily; he continued his studies in marine engineering at Stockholm Technical Institute from 1946-1948. After emigrating to Canada, he attended the University of Toronto from 1949-1953, and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture. Among his honours while a student at University of Toronto were the Hobb’s Glass Scholarship for highest standing in Design and University of Toronto nominee for the Pilkington Award for his final thesis project, Toronto Olympic Stadium. In 1956 Mr. Tampõld was accepted as a member of the Ontario Association of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada; in 1997 he was nominated a lifetime member of the O.A.A.


Mr. Tampõld began his architectural career in the design department of John B. Parkin and Associates, one of Canada’s leading architectural firms, where he worked from 1953-1956. From 1957-59 he was Chief Architect for the Canadian office of H.K. Ferguson Company Engineers and Architects, Cleveland, Ohio. In 1959, along with a classmate, he established the architectural firm of Tampõld and Wells. During 35 years of practice, over 1000 projects were designed for public, institutional, and private clients. Buildings were completed in the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and the firm grew to include offices in Montreal and Halifax. Tampõld-Wells Architects` reputation was built on design excellence with an emphasis on professional responsibility to their clients. A specialty of the firm was university student residences, which included Charles Street Married Students residence, Neill-Wycik College, Rochdale College, and Tartu College in Toronto; Pestalozzi College in Ottawa and Laurentian University in Sudbury; Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and Acadia University; University of Fredericton, New Brunswick; Dag Hammarskjöld House and the Married Students Residence in Waterloo, Ontario; a student residence hall in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Awards and citations to the firm include the 1967 Centennial Award from the Canada Housing Design Council, the 1968 Canadian Architect Yearbook Award of Excellence, the Canadian Housing Council Award (1971 and 1976), and the 1990 North York Award of Excellence. His own home, “Maytree House”, was one of 20 buildings, selected by architectural critics for a show of Toronto architecture, titled Toronto le Noveau Noveau Monde, with showings in Paris, Barcelona, Milan and Toronto.

Throughout his years in Canada, Elmar Tampõld has been a prominent leader and prime mover in the Toronto Estonian community. In 1949 he established the University of Toronto Estonian Students’ Society, and was elected its first President. Proceeds from the Society’s events enabled the founding of a Scholarship Fund for Estonian students. In 1967 Mr. Tampõld proposed the concept of Tartu College to like-minded Estonians. From 1967 to 1970 he was the driving force in the building of Tartu College, serving in numerous roles to achieve its implementation as mentor, architect, main financier, sponsor and overall project director, overcoming numerous roadblocks to its completion. His entrepreneurial ingenuity created the 18 storey, 474 room non-profit student residence which has provided significant educational funds for Estonian scholarship. As Chairman of the Tartu College’ Board of Directors he implemented his original concept by initiating and structuring the College’s subcommittees and programs.

The educational arm of Tartu College, Tartu Institute and Library, have become an important Estonian Studies resource center. In addition, Estonian academic organizations have free use of 10,000 square feet, and an extra 7000 square feet of space have been set aside for archival use.

In 1982, Elmar Tampõld proposed reinvesting Tartu College’s surplus revenues for the founding of a Chair of Estonian Studies at the University of Toronto. In 1983, he established the Chair of Estonian Studies Foundation and together with Professors Endel Tulving and Olev Träss made the initial presentation to the University of Toronto. He became the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Chair of Estonian Studies Foundation. (please see Founding of the Chair of Estonian Studies)

In 1999, Mr. Tampõld established the Estonian Scholarships Fund (Ilmar Heinsoo Award) with a total endowment of 150,000 with funding from the University, the Ontario government, Tartu College, the Estonian Studies Fund, Estonian Credit Union, the Estonian National Foundation, and Fraternitas Estica, in honour of the former Estonian honorary consul. Also in 1999, Mr. Tampõld merged the two Estonian weekly newspapers in Toronto into a single newspaper, “Estonian Life” to ensure their continuation, and to modernize their publication and distribution. A webpage was introduced as part of the merger. In 2003, he provided the seed capital and enthusiasm for the new Estonian Studies Library located in Tartu College.

Elmar Tampõld’s visionary leadership, exemplary mentorship, and wide-ranging intellectual interests continues to generate new ideas and projects. His continued support and wise counsel to the Chair of Estonian Studies over the course of changing times and circumstances has been instrumental in creating a thriving and innovative academic home base for Estonian studies at the University of Toronto, which also nourishes the local Estonian community. His continuing interests include studying the potential development of a second Tartu College tower to further advance Estonian scholarship, Estonian academic studies, and to preserve and enhance the existing Tartu College legacy.