The youngest of a family of eleven children, Etienne Gaboury was born on April 24, 1930 to a farming cfamily from Swan Lake, Manitoba. The family boasted a long history of Canadian settlement in its ancestry: the first Gaboury, Antoine, had arrived in Pointes-aux-Trembles, Quebec, from La Rochelle, France in 1690. Among his descendants was Marie-Anne Gaboury, who with her husband Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière was one of the first ‘white couples’ in Western Canada. Their grandson, the mixed-blood Louis Riel, would later lead the Métis rebellion against the British government.
After leaving the local one-room schoolhouse, St. Gerard, Gaboury continued his education at the Roman Catholic convent of Bruxelles from 1943-44, and then at the Jesuit-run college of St. Boniface in 1944. After his father’s death in 1947, he stayed at home for a year to help his mother and eldest brother, Gerard, on the farm. He returned to his studies in 1949 at the University of Manitoba, graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts in Latin Philosophy. After encouragement from a Father Lucien Hardy Gaboury met with a recent architectural graduate from the University of Manitoba, Louis Gauthier, following which Gaboury decided to apply to the School of Architecture at the university. Having won several design awards and prizes during his studies, Gaboury graduated with a B.A. in 1958, and was subsequently awarded a Government of France bursary to attend the famed Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Gaboury completed his studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1959. Upon his return to Manitoba, he was hired as a design architect by Libling Michener Architects in Winnipeg. He worked for the firm for two years before departing to open his own office, accompanied by his brother Adrien who joined him as a draftsman and manager, a position he retained until 1987. In a very short time, Gaboury established a reputation as a prairie architect with a strong regionalist approach to design, in his own words, “a philosophy sensitive to the environment: sun, moon, wind, extreme cold, heat. Functionalist principles were vital, but spirituality and emotional content were paramount, thus decreeing that all aspects of functionalism were to be considered: the spiritual and emotional as well as the physical. Gaboury states “Architecture must house both the body and the soul.”
In 1998, Gaboury merged his firm into a new partnership with Guy Préfontaine and David Perry to become Gaboury Préfontaine Perry Architects. Under this new imprimatur, Gaboury’s most recent projects have included the Norway House School, the St. Boniface University College Student Centre, the Provencher Bridge and the Esplanade Riel.
During his forty-year long career as an architect, he completed more than 300 projects in Canada and around the world. The Canadian embassy in Mexico, the technical college in Abidjan, the Nelson House school in northern Manitoba, as well as several buildings in Winnipeg: the Mint; Saint Boniface Cathedral; Église du Précieux-Sang; and the Provencher Bridge; are amongst his most important works.