New Uses for Old Places – Building Additions

New Uses for Old Places is a RETROactive series in which we are looking at examples from around Alberta of historic places that have found interesting new uses for spaces that were originally designed for other purposes. This week we will be looking at two examples of adaptive reuse projects that have involved the construction of additions to the historic fabric.

As previously discussed in this series, the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada offer guidelines for rehabilitating and adaptively reusing historic places. The “S&Gs” include specific provisions for how decisions can be made that will allow for the modification of buildings over time. A tenant may require additional square footage to continue operations or to start a new business in a historic place. When these situations arise and building additions are required, the Standards & Guidelines provide guidance on how to proceed.

Standard Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place.
Standard Create any new additions or related new construction so that the essential form and integrity of an historic place will not be impaired if the new work is removed in the future.
Guideline Design an addition that is compatible in terms of materials and massing with the exterior form of the historic building and its setting.
Guideline Design a new addition in a manner that draws a clear distinction between what is historic and what is new.
Guideline Select the location for a new addition that ensures that the heritage value of the place is maintained.

Our first example, the Wetaskiwin Court House, was constructed as a three-storey, red brick building between 1907 and 1909 and served as a legal institution of regional importance for over 70 years. The court house was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1977 and the last court sitting was held in 1983.

A major rehabilitation project was undertaken in 2006 to convert the building to accommodate the offices and Council Chambers of the City of Wetaskiwin. As part of the rehabilitation, two new additions were added to either wing of the building. The project involved integration of older materials with new technologies, such as the tie in of the original cast iron radiators with the new geothermal heating and cooling system.

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Our second example, the Strathcona Public Library in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Edmonton, is a two-storey brick structure that was constructed in 1913 and remains the oldest surviving public library in Edmonton. The Strathcona Public Library was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2004 and a Provincial Historic Resource in 2008.

Strathcona Public Library

Over the years the use had not changed but the needs of the institution grew and additional space and services became a requirement. A major rehabilitation project was undertaken to construct an addition at the rear of the building (the left portion as shown on the image to the right). The rehabilitated library was re-opened in 2007.

Click on the following link to access a copy of a presentation on this project given by Tom Ward, Manager of Heritage Conservation Advisory Services, at the 2013 Municipal Heritage Forum: Strathcona Library PowerPoint – 2013 Forum.

These projects exemplify that heritage need not be frozen in place. There are means by which to respect and care for the original fabric while allowing for the transformation of uses over time.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

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