The Edmonton Federal Building (EFB) is a 10-storey, Art Deco-style facility located on the northeast corner of the Alberta Legislature Grounds in Canada’s most northerly provincial capital city. Designed in 1939 by prominent local architect George Heath MacDonald and built in the late 1950’s, this building has sat vacant since 1989. Now, the EFB is being effectively and dramatically repurposed to create engaging new offices and gathering spaces. When complete, the Edmonton Federal Building and Centennial Plaza redevelopment project will significantly increase public space at the Legislature Grounds and provide year-round recreational opportunities, creating a unique symbol of government accessibility for the 21st Century. With an autumn of 2012 completion date, this Canadian $246-million redevelopment is designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold standards. It incorporates a range of sustainable design, construction and operational features, including green roofs on all building structures.
This project is particularly complex because of the desire to effectively integrate heritage, sustainability, architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, interior design and infrastructure into a cohesive outcome. It requires a balance be struck between old and new; safeguarding the inherent character and integrity of the original building, while enhancing its future viability. The three main components of the project scope are:
1. Comprehensive redevelopment and repurposing of the existing EFB.
Much of the original building envelope system is being reconsidered as part of an extensive asbestos abatement process and envelope upgrade to meet current standards. In order to retain and reuse the original fixtures and fittings, the design team has created a detailed photographic and written inventory of existing period building components so that these can be integrated within the new building. In particular, glazed tile dados, terrazzo stairs and metal handrails in the stairwells, along with the original triangular exit lights, are being protected and preserved for future use. Furthermore, the original Art Deco lobby – a decorative high-ceiling space beyond the perimeter entry doors with marble floors and book-matched marble walls – is to remain virtually intact. Repairs to the original ceiling are required due to structural upgrades on the 2nd floor. When complete, the lobby will reflect the builidng’s original elegance and integrity. The approach to the building exterior is one of minimum intervention, aside from essential repointing and masonry repairs, with extensive retention of original materials and detailing including finely chiselled coats of arms and motifs of Art Deco sunbursts, chevrons, and zigzags. A continuous strip of glass blocks, a design innovation from the 1930’s to provide natural light to the end stairways, remains on the north and south façades. Upon completion, the building will have an approximate gross area of 33,000 sq.m. (355,210 sq.ft), with 23,000 sq.m. (247,570 sq.ft) of useable floor space.
This transparent structure connects the existing building to the legislature grounds. Developed to be compatible and to integrate with the EFB design elements, the glazed pavilion’s mass and scale respects elements such as the second-storey cornice line as well as the formal geometry, design and materials of the existing building. The pavilion is supported by an internal tree-like structure of tapering wooden and metal columns; it also houses an active living wall with an integrated water feature and a ceremonial stair connecting the ground and second floor spaces. Intended as a symbol of regeneration, the pavilion and its elements recall the splendour, power and grandeur of the natural and constructed Prairie landscape. This new addition houses a modern visitor centre, with permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, as well as dining, retail and public gathering opportunities. The accessible ground-level entrance connects the EFB and pavilion building to the Pedway, a climate-controlled network of underground tunnels and walkways linking the buildings and amenities throughout the legislature grounds The living wall and water feature in the pavilion is directly integrated into the mechanical system for the EFB and will passively generate moisture to improve humidity levels in the large atrium. Excellent access to natural light throughout the upper floors will enhance the experience of all occupants.
This public plaza and ‘year round’ people space includes water features, integrated landscaping and public gathering opportunities. Designed to operate within the site’s microclimate, the landscape concept depicts Alberta’s six ecological zones – grasslands, parklands, foothills, Rocky Mountains, boreal forest, and Canadian Shield – as well as a 100-fountain head interactive water feature that commemorates Alberta’s 100-year centennial. Universally accessible to all, the access ramps are designed at, or below, a five per cent slope to effectively eliminate stairs. Specially designed signage and wayfinding tools will complement and enhance the architectural and landscape environments. This space will support concerts and public entertainment during the summer months and skating and outdoor events, (including the Festival of Light as well as Christmas and New Year celebrations), in the winter. Eliminating the old, above-ground car park in favour of a modern three-level, underground parkade facilitates the creation of this new plaza.
The adaptive reuse of an historic building for contemporary requirements also creates a unique set of challenges related to emerging technologies, evolving workplace strategies and change management. The EFB design team is working with the client and key stakeholder groups to create a comprehensive and collaborative facilities planning approach to maximise future flexibility and scalability. This involves developing strategies for space use and recognising the need for a planning strategy that supports changes in staffing and function following elections and/or growth. A high-performance workplace (HPW) model for the building occupants will facilitate the creation of a flexible, functional and fluid environment that improves work flow and knowledge sharing at every level.
The redeveloped Edmonton Federal Building and Centennial Plaza is set to create an enduring expression of Alberta’s history, culture and future interests, preserving the beauty and longevity of one of the city’s most significant architectural landmarks.Location: Edmonton, Canada
Architect: Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd