School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Kyle Gonyou

Master of Planning

Kyle Gonyou

Masters of Planning Grad wins Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Award.

by Sharday Mosurinjohn
February 2015

With a thud, Kyle Gonyou hauls a large brick onto the desk before me, pointing out the rare glazed terracotta finish with a distinctive “crazing” – a network of fine cracks. It used to belong to the façade of the former McCormick’s Biscuit & Candy plant in London, ON, Gonyou’s hometown and the municipality where he now works since graduating Queen’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program and departing Kingston. As a Heritage Planner, Gonyou knows what’s behind the city you see. (Appropriately the building where this branch of city services resides is a heritage building that was recently renovated to reveal structural details from the former Capitol Theatre and the adjacent restaurant – the effect is like Queen’s own Beamish-Munro Hall, but for a different kind of edification).

A specialist in built environment, Gonyou’s vision is farsighted as it is penetrating. He recently won an award from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) for his yearlong efforts on the organizing committee for the 2012 Ontario Heritage Conference, which was held in Kingston. This work started in the first year of the MPL. While taking a heritage conservation course, Gonyou started attending local heritage meetings in Kingston and got acquainted with the conservation-minded community.

It also gave him contacts that led to a job, directly after finishing his coursework, working in the historic Village of Bath for Loyalist Township, just outside of Kingston.

Gonyou’s love of history is a robust one. Having taken a minor in History and a major in Art History at Queen’s as an undergraduate, he was a volunteer docent at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre throughout that time, and even through grad school. More obliquely retrospective activities include having volunteered for yearbook and design services in his second year and doing some work for them the next, as well as volunteering for Queen’s Student Alumni Association.

Gonyou describes his time at Queen’s as being bookended by two major experiences, the highlights of his time here: as an undergraduate, he spent first year abroad at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceaux Castle, and as a graduate, he spent two weeks in Shanghai, China on a project course through the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Led by Dr. John Meligrana and Dr. Li Zhang, the visit involved looking at three main areas, including: land use classification systems, environmental planning in China, and the role of professional planners in China. (For another perspective on the MPL Shanghai trip, see here)

One of the things Gonyou most valued about his MPL training was the range of experiences it offered, including the balance between methods and theory, applied and scholarly work. Under his supervisor Dr. David Gordon, he completed a major research project. Though he is glad to be applying these skills to his job in London – a place where his family has had roots since 1819 – it was with some regret that he left Kingston, and the lovely old craftsman style bungalow he occupied.

But London has its charms, too. From the Planning Office in downtown London, Gonyou can point out dozens of heritage properties within eyeshot. He directs my gaze over the distinctive “London buff” brick showing pale yellow in the slanting afternoon sun as he emphasizes that without stories and the human element these buildings are just bricks and mortar. To that end, Gonyou works with property owners in London, where there are over 4000 heritage properties (and over 6000 properties on the Inventory of Heritage Resources) to make ensure that heritage attributes are conserved (most, for your information, are located on the exterior of buildings).

His appointment doubles the City’s heritage planning staff, which, along with a few major upcoming projects, augurs well for a progressive era. “There are a lot of people in London that are very dedicated [to heritage conservation],” Gonyou says. “So much so that we’re often preaching to the converted, and the challenge is to reach out beyond.” In doing so, Gonyou says, he and his colleagues want to encourage heritage conservation, not just penalize when it doesn’t go to plan. Ultimately, his training has taught him that the work he does is in “a values-based system – it’s about what we value as a collective society.”