Conserving the past to heighten the present

  • Client

    City of Calgary
  • Location

    Calgary, AB, Canada
  • Year

  • Discipline(s)


Conserving the past to heighten the present

Highly tactile and carefully orchestrated, and a rare embrace of artisanship not often seen in modern construction, the Calgary Public Building’s architectural conservation represents a second lease on life for an anchoring cornerstone to the Arts Commons in downtown Calgary.

Dating back to 1919 with completed construction in 1931, this neoclassical Beaux Arts design and its seamless merger of decorative elements with commercial functionality has maintained a significant presence in its city. As time passed, however, the Calgary Public Building’s eight-storey masonry structure required extensive studies of its condition and how it could be rehabilitated.

Focusing on the north façade, the conservation work on this deeply historic address required a great deal of precision and coordination between designers, the city, construction manager, vendors, and masons. Taking stock of its exterior details, thorough interventions and selections had to be made for a monumental exterior of Tyndall limestone—a noble material unique to Canada with fossilized intricacies and two-tone patterns, pieces of which were individually scrutinized—and massive Ionic columns. Further still, details such as Chicago-style windows with cast iron elements, marble panels, and sheet metal elements including roof parapets and portico cornices, lintels, upper pilaster capitals and bases, flutes, and metal and marble spandrels were among the rehabilitation’s considerations.

Once finished and its temporary netting, shoring, hoarding, and scaffolding was removed, the north façade rejoined the city’s overall landscape of heritage structures. The beginning of a complete renewal, its north façade now represents the first stones laid to enclose its LEED Platinum interiors, and the continuation of an emblematic piece of Calgary’s past which heightens the present.