The Thorvaldson cube sits in front of the building of the same name.

Interviews with inanimate objects: Thorvaldson cube

There are fascinating statues, artifacts and fun objects located all over the University of Saskatchewan campus. Get to know them a little better with this year’s On Campus News back page feature: Interviews with inanimate objects.

By Lesley Porter

Location: steps in front of the Thorvaldson Building

What are you?
I’m a cube erected in honour of Thorbergur Thorvaldson, who served as a professor and head of the Department of Chemistry from 1919–1948 and later as dean of graduate studies. 

What are you made of?
I am a type of cement resistant to sulphate deterioration, developed by Thorvaldson and his research team at the U of S.

Who is that?
Originally from Iceland, Thorvaldson was a chemist and pioneer in materials chemistry research. He joined the U of S in 1914 and became department head five years later. It was around this time that a problem emerged in Western Canada related to the corrosive action of sulfates on concrete—a major issue for engineers.

Along with his research team—which included C.J Mackenzie, former dean of engineering—Thorvaldson conducted significant research on the cause of this new phenomenon and devised a technique that changed the crystalline structure of concrete, rendering it immune to sulfate damage. This discovery changed the manufacturing process for cement and saved many existing structures from decay, winning Thorvaldson much acclaim—including renaming the Chemistry Building to the Thorvaldson Building in his honour in 1966.

Campus legend has it that Professor Thorvaldson is buried inside of you. Is that true?
I can assure you that this is not how we treat our esteemed former faculty members.