The emergence of Brutalism at the University of Guelph is unique compared to other Canadian universities of the period in that these futuristic buildings were designed to fit into the historical framework of the original campus. This required an adaptive, rather than destructive, approach. Photographs taken during the Brutalist construction period show visual adaptation taking place, juxtaposing the future of the campus, as a comprehensive learning institution, with its recent agricultural past. This tense relationship is perhaps no better demonstrated than the juxtaposition of Zavitz Hall and the MacNaughton Building.
Zavitz Hall was built in 1914 to house the department of Field Husbandry, part of the original Ontario Agricultural College. It was designed in the English Cottage style, an appropriate choice for a rural campus. The Physical Sciences Building, known today as the MacNaughton Building, was intended to be part of an ensemble of Brutalist facades forming the edge condition for a new, modern piazza, now known as Branion Plaza.
A key feature of the new MacNaughton building is the exterior expression of the lecture hall thrusting itself into the pubic space. The fulfillment of this bold vision required the razing of Zavitz Hall. However, due to opposition from several sides, the demolition never happened, and Zavitz Hall was subsequently repurposed for the College of Arts.