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Tours With An Architect: The Dundas Museum & Archives
Nestled amongst a quiet residential neighbourhood on Park Street West, sits the newly renovated Dundas Museum and Archives.
Completed in November 2013 at cost of $1.4 million, the new expansion features a double-height atrium connecting the Dundas Historical Society Museum to the Pirie House, expanded galleries, additional storage, and greater accessibility.
“The north and south entrances (of the atrium) and the original exhibit space are all at different heights,” said Drew Hauser, Principle Architect at MSA Architects, the firm commissioned to design the expansion. “The atrium brings them all together, accessibly.”
Dundas Museum and Archives Curator Kevin Puddister said the original entrance of the Dundas Historical Society Museum (completed in 1956) was a nightmare. “You had to go up two sets of stairs that were both steep. We had a chair lift, like on the [infomercials],” said Puddister. The exterior of the old entrance is currently enclosed in glass, which the museum plans to use to promote their events.
Now there is an elevator in the atrium, added with the help of the Federal Government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund, connecting to the original exhibit space. The entrance to the exhibit space is open and shared, with the stairs and elevator side-by-side.
Hauser and his team expanded the galleries. The feature gallery “used to have something like a stage, but we got rid of it,” said Hauser, giving the gallery space more available square footage. The ceiling tiles have been removed, leaving the ceiling exposed and pot lights were installed on sliding tracks.
The double-height atrium, named Robert & Eva (Betrum) Cole Atrium (after the family of the Dundas Museum founder H.G. Bertram), features exposed beams, celestial windows, corrugated steel cladding, and an area to display artifacts like the machine lathe that was built by John Bertram and Sons Co. in 1896. “I bought it on Kijiji!” boasts Puddister, with a smile.
Puddister says the atrium was inspired by Dundas’ industrial past. “What many people don’t realize is that Dundas was an industrial town, and the atrium has that industrial look to it.”
The atrium also connects to the Pirie House, bought by the museum in 1974. The walls separating the rooms inside the house have been removed and the area is open, yet intimate, and has become a popular event space.
There is ease to the museums layout. A flow that is both sociable and transparent. “It’s a better space for security and engagement,” said Puddister. “We have staff throughout the museum. It’s more fluid.”
The Doctors Office, a Gothic Revival building built in 1848 and moved behind the museum in 1974, is also connected via concrete pathway. “I love that we linked the museum to the Doctors Office. This space (the north lawn) would be a great place to throw events in the future,” said Hauser.
Both Hauser and Puddister are pleased with the renovation. “This was one of my favourite projects,” said Hauser. “The Board of Directors was really great to work with. They were really understanding.”
The Dundas Museum and Archives is located at 139 Park St West and is open from Tuesday to Saturday.
For more information visit http://www.dundasmuseum.ca/
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PHOTO OF THE DAY – November 2nd
Architectural Spotlight: The Lister Block
At the corner of James Street North and King William sits the Lister Block (or Lady Lister). Once neglected, the mid-rise commercial building has been brought back to life with a vibrancy that expresses Hamilton’s ambition.
Completed in 1924, the current Lister Block was erected on the grounds of the old Lister Chambers, built by Joseph Lister in 1886, which was demolished due to a fire in 1923. The building closed its doors in 1995 after decades of vacancy, neglect, and sprawling development.
LiUNA bought the Lister Block back in 1999, letting it sit vacant for over a decade. In 2010, LiUNA and Hi-Rise Group began to renovate the building at the cost of $25 million, with a $7 million contribution from the province. The renovation was completed in early 2011.
Designed by architect Bernard Prack and constructed by the Pigott Construction Company, the six-storey Classical Renaissance building references the highly influential work of Chicago’s “father of the skyscraper”, Louis Sullivan.
At street level, the first two floors are composed of off-white terracotta, complete with pilasters and Corinthian capitals, a projecting cornice, and a frieze design consisting of cartouches. Bay windows compliment the terracotta, while copper detailing and leaded transoms add visual weight to a light composition.
The upper stories consist of a contrasting dark red brick, with double-hung windows, and copper alloy spandrels. Heavy fenestration and spandrels make the brick stand out, creating a vertical emphasis in a Sullivanesque fashion. The building is crowned with a projecting terracotta cornice adorned with organic ornamentation, creating the metaphorical “icing on the cake.”
Inside, the arcade is complete with terrazzo tiles, wood framed storefronts, arched ceilings with crown molding, and detailed skylights that provide ample natural lighting. The upper floors have been renovated to accommodate offices for the city.
Although initially marred in controversy over its neglect, Lister Block has been brought back from near extinction. The restoration of this significant piece of Hamilton heritage has made Lister Block a shining beacon of urban renewal.
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PHOTO OF THE DAY – October 4th
PHOTO OF THE DAY: October 2nd
PHOTO OF THE DAY: September 27th
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In Photos: Through the Lens of Steph Dubik
About the photographer:
Steph is a flâneur with a penchant for taking beautiful photographs in and around Hamilton. She likes to take photographs of signs, buildings, bicycles and whatever catches her eye, using disposable cameras.
For more of her work visit: http://justdisposables.ca/
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PHOTO OF THE DAY – September 23rd
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Architectural Spotlight: Witton Lofts
Core Urban Inc. Development
50 Murray St
Due to demographic shifts, seemingly poor management, budget constraints, and multiple other circumstances, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is facing school closures throughout the city. Witton Lofts, formerly McIlwraight Public School, is a intelligent example of how you can adaptively re-use a former school without a wrecking ball.
Completed in 2013, the five-storey, 36-unit loft is a catalyst for redevelopment in the core. The design of the building effectively incorporates and preserves the two-storey school from 1925, while a three-storey emerald jewel box of glass and steel is superimposed on top of the neo-Romanesque building. The outcome is a harmonious marriage of contemporary and classical architecture. New entrances have been relocated to the east side of the building, where an elevator has been added for accessibility to the upper floors. Two additional entrances are also located at the rear of the building under original arched doorways. The schools façade has largely remained unchanged with its detailed limestone ornament and intricate, colourful brickwork. The only changes being cosmetic and structural upgrades, such as pot lights and new windows.
With a mixture of both fully enclosed and open-air balconies, the lofts offer panoramic vistas of both the bay and James Street North. Parking garages for residents have also been added for additional parking and storage.
Architect William Palmer Witton designed McIlwraight Public School while he was partnered with Walter Wilson Stewart. During his formative years, Witton apprenticed under Alder & Sullivan (two of America’s most influential architects) in Chicago between 1893 and 1894, where he was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition. His other notable Hamilton landmarks include Herkimer Apartments, George R. Allan Public School, and a chancel addition to Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, to name a few.
In 2013, Witton Lofts received the City of Hamilton Urban Design Award of Excellence for Adaptive Reuse.
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