The Architect Rolf Duschenes

A German-Jewish architect

Located at 1445 Regent Street, this imposing office building next to a large shopping centre is the New Brunswick headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Opened in 1990 and covering 14,000 square metres, the building was designed by Rolf Duschenes, an architect of German-Jewish descent.

The red brick building is somewhat set back from the road and is made up of several tiers. In the centre middle is a glass atrium that echoes the stepwise shape of the building and is reminiscent of a waterfall. It was one of the first public buildings in the province to be built with the goal of being environmentally friendly, energy-saving, and sustainable. It is a perfect example of the numerous buildings with which Rolf Duschenes and his firm “Duschenes, Fish&Stars” have significantly influenced the architecture of New Brunswick.

New Brunswick Headquarters (J Division) New Brunswick Headquarters (J Division) | © Goethe-Institut Montreal Rolf Duschenes grew up in Hamburg in a well-educated German-Austrian family. As a young university student, he fled Germany in 1937, and after spending two years in Prague, Switzerland, and England, he came to Canada via the UK. After two and a half years in an internment camp in Sherbrooke, Quebec, he was privately sponsored in order to study architecture at McGill University. Upon graduating, he got a position at the renowned architecture firm “Ross and MacDonald” in Montreal. In 1948, the firm sent him to Saint John on a project. The city appealed to him so much that he moved there with his wife Ermon Frey and opened a branch of the Montreal architecture firm in New Brunswick. His career was filled with success: he became a partner at the firm (renamed Duschenes, Fish&Stars) in 1959, a number of his designs won prizes, and he was eventually made president of the Architectural Association of New Brunswick and a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (FRAIC). In 1983, he was awarded the Order of Canada for his achievements, which is Canada’s highest distinction for civilians.
 
His social and cultural commitment to his new homeland was widespread. He was actively invested in supporting classical music, and was a founding member and president of the Saint John Symphony, as well as president of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, among other things. He was a friend and supporter of many local artists. He also volunteered as a firefighter in the community of Westfield, and he designed the building for Westfield’s school. In addition, he was a board member of the New Brunswick Museum for many years. After the end of the war, the members of his family were fortunately able to get ahold of the family property stored in Hamburg, and part of Duschenes’ family library was incorporated into the New Brunswick Museum’s small exhibition on the Holocaust survivors. A few years before his death in Saint John at the age of 96 in 2014, Rolf Duschenes had the joy of being able to preside over a Canadian citizenship ceremony. This architect of German origin changed Canada and New Brunswick permanently with his knowledge, talent, and love of art.