Renovation of the 70-year-old Art Deco-style Edmonton Federal Building, on the northeast corner of the Alberta Legislature grounds, is one of the largest renovation projects ever undertaken in Edmonton. The project involved comprehensive redevelopment and repurposing of the existing Edmonton Federal Building and the addition of a new west entrance pavilion, a new public plaza, and a three-level underground parkade.
“The provincial government made a bold decision not to tear the building down, but to keep it as a significant part of our history,” says Manoj Mistry, Principal with Stantec. “We had to keep the structure as intact as possible. That was a key decision that caused a lot of heartburn because, of course, it’s easier to just rip things away. The biggest complexity was tying all the elements together into a unified design, while maintaining the original architectural and structural fabric.”
One challenge was the requirement for large committee rooms that were column-free in a building originally designed as an office building. The committee rooms would require double the weight carrying capacity that the floors were originally designed for and columns removed.
“Primary perimeter columns were carrying the whole weight of the building,” Mistry says. “We had to remove columns on each of two floors, which involved changing the line of weight. It was like taking a bottom piece from a Lego construction without upsetting the rest of the structure. We had to work with the architect and fabricators to find the most achievable, affordable and buildable solution without having the building collapse on us.”
Gatehouse structures flanking the north perimeter of the plaza speak to a newer architectural theme. The structures are open and transparent, featuring glass and exposed steel. “With that visibility, the structure had to be not just the most utilitarian and functional, but also a showpiece,” Mistry says. “We worked closely with the architect to make sure the architectural vision became a reality.”
The new west entrance pavilion opening onto the plaza provides a link between the old and the new and created another interesting challenge. Mistry describes it as a large, forward-looking, transparent space.
“We needed a partial second level, but didn’t want columns under the flooring at the edge. We achieved this by having rods hanging from the roof to support the floor slab. It’s a careful dance of how the floor impacts the roof and the roof impacts the floor.”
Each challenge in the project required a long iterative process with all members of the design team to achieve the best solution, Mistry says. “The whole theme is revitalizing and keeping an aspect of our history, making it relevant to today, and adapting it to be useful for a long time to come.”
Owner: Alberta Infrastructure
Architect: Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd.
Structural Engineer: Stantec Consulting Ltd.
Project Manager / General Contractor: Clark Builders
Fabricator: Whitemud Ironworks Group Inc.