The Chemistry Building has evolved greatly over time. Opened in 1924, it was one of the last of the original stone collegiate gothic buildings designed by the Montreal architect David Brown. The four-storey building was built to house the Colleges of Home Economics and Pharmacy, and the Department of Chemistry. It was the most elaborate of the early campus buildings. Designed specifically to meet the needs of teaching and research in chemistry, it was a far cry form the makeshift laboratories in the basement of the College Building and reflected the confidence of the 1920s. It faced not inward toward the bowl and the original buildings, but outward to what was expected to be an expanding future. Dubbed by one critic as an “expensive show to make an impressive front,” it was to have a second identical north wing but, depression and war brought a halt to all thoughts of capital expansion. The first floor was composed almost entirely of classrooms, with two small laboratories. An auditorium was located on the second floor, with a tile dome rising 68ft., as well as laboratories featuring acid-proof lining on all fume vents and drains. Storerooms were located in the basement, with a sub-basement containing the ventilation, heating and sewage systems.
The limitations of the original building became apparent with the massive influx of students at the end of World War II. The rise in enrollment put a strain on the resources of universities across the country. In response the federal government offered military surplus equipment and buildings to educational institutions at bargain prices. The University of Saskatchewan purchased nine surplus huts for $46,000 and joined them together to form Chemistry Annex One and Two. This “temporary” solution remained in place for two decades.
A second wing of Chemistry Building was finally opened in June of 1966. The original David Brown plan was replaced by John B. Parkin’s modern design. Still clad in stone, the near windowless three-storey addition provided classrooms, undergraduate and research laboratories, offices, a library and service facilities. At the official opening, the entire complex was renamed to honour chemist Thorbergur Thorvaldson. A smaller Pharmacy addition, designed by Akin Olfert, was completed in 1988.
Another major expansion to the complex is currently underway. Echoing the campus’s original architectural style, the new north-facing four-storey Spinks addition has been given a neo-Collegiate Gothic façade. When finished the new wing will be home to the departments of Computer Science and Chemistry. At the same time a portion of the 1924 structure is undergoing extensive renovation.