Follow The Renos #2: Before They Began…


Planning The Job

Imagine that you own an exquisite, hundred-year-old home with timeless treasures and one-of-a-kind furnishings and artwork. You want to renovate it to bring it into the 22nd century.  You want to restore it ‘like new’. 

When it was built, there were no modern heating and cooling systems, no electrical circuit breakers, no accommodation made for the use of modern technology, and in the recent past, it was rocked by an earthquake. You want to ensure that this treasure is restored to its natural beauty for the next generation.

As a homeowner, you would consult with an architect who would render a drawing of where the the upgrades will be and what the enhancements would look like to accommodate the upgrades. 

Well, that is a greatly simplified version of the task which lay ahead of the renovations taking place in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block –  a massive renovation of a hundred-year-old, world heritage site.

What’s Being Done 

To get the project going, a digital record of what existed pre-renovations were made. This was followed by removing the heritage items that needed extra protection and storing them off-site, or enclosing in plywood, the heritage items which could not be moved.

To see how that digital record was made, read this article of January 3rd 2020, as reported by CTV news. Click on the arrow to watch this fascinating video: 

When interviewed, Jennifer Garrett, the director general for the Centre Block program, told CTV News, “We’re working as quickly as we can (so that) the program remains on track. We’ve achieved all the key milestones that we said we would to date…”

The article went on to say:

A key aspect of the project so far has been creating what’s known as the building information model, or BIM, of Centre Block. This has been done by blending photogrammetry, essentially the capturing and stitching together of hundreds of thousands of images, and thousands of laser scans of the space. The BIM can be viewed digitally on the project team’s computers, or thanks to video game software, through a virtual reality simulation.  

Archeological Digs?

Another aspect of pre-renovation planning has been large scale excavations because an expanded underground welcome centre is being constructed.

As CTV News reported  in the Summer of 2019, a missing piece of Canadian history was uncovered by archeologists working on the pre-construction assessment of Parliament Hill. They discovered a former military guardhouse and several artifacts that pre-date Confederation. According to PSPC approximately 90,000 artifacts, such as buttons from military uniforms and pieces of ceramics, have been unearthed to date.

There have also been discoveries inside the building. As part of the renovation assessment process, items have been discovered inside the walls and ceilings of Centre Block, including old copies of order papers from the House of Commons, and items dating back to the 1920s such as cigarette boxes, matchboxes, chewing gum packages and candy bar wrappers.

Click the arrow to watch the video in the article.

So What Do You Do With Your Finds?

These artifacts give us a peek into what ‘Barracks Hill’ looked like, most likely while the Rideau Canal was being built. Barracks Hill (now Parliament Hill) was the location of the British Royal Engineers’ military headquarters until the Rideau Canal waterway was opened in 1832. 

The artifacts have been catalogued, analyzed and preserved in ‘museum ready’ state because of their heritage value. WHERE they will be on display for the public is yet to be determined by the various government agencies with jurisdiction on these matters. These agencies include, the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), Parks Canada, the National Capital Commission, the Department of National Defence, the House of Commons, Senate, Library of Parliament, and Canada’s museum community.

Where Do You Live in the Meantime?

Just like doing massive renovations on your home, you need to find somewhere to house your family while the house is in shambles. At the end of 2018, MPs and Senators moved into their temporary ‘new’ homes. 

MPs moved into the newly renovated West Block while Senators moved into the refurbished Conference Centre just opposite the Chateau Laurier so that the legislative work of the government can continue unimpeded for as many as 10 years.  

There are lots of links in these articles, so click away to find out more.

Gutting the building & Storage of heritage items

There is an ongoing balancing act between restoration and preservation of our history. While some areas need to be stripped down to the bricks to upgrade with heating and cooling, ventilation, and digital technology elements, some areas will be left untouched.

For example, PRESERVED – is the hand-painted linen ceiling inside the House of Commons chamber to be reinstalled later. 

GUTTED – is the asbestos which was hidden behind that ceiling. As of December 20 2020, over 2 ½ million kilograms of asbestos has been removed (Me thinking out loud… I wonder how they got rid of that dangerous stuff?)

UNTOUCHED –  will be the suspended plaster ceiling in the Senate chamber because it was hand-stencilled and covered in gold foil. 

ALSO UNTOUCHED – will be the huge Tyndall stone branches in the rotunda and hundreds of carvings high up in the ceiling. 

Also as of December 2020, there were approximately 22,000 more heritage elements like stone pillars, marble floors and walls waiting to be removed, catalogued and shipped off-site for storage and preservation.

You can read more about the process here.

In our next installment, Follow The Renos #3: The Heritage Collection from the Peace Tower you will see some interesting photos of the stained glass windows as reflected in out book: The Legacy of 25 Scripture Verses on Parliament Hill.

Get the book here. On sale until January 31st. 

And check out our ​beautiful 2022 calendars here too which tell about our Christian heritage on Parliament Hill. 

They are made of heavy cardstock, so if you would like to save the pictures for framing, you can do so. Each month you will find a picture which reminds you of some aspect of our Christian heritage left for you on Parliament Hill.

On the Front of the Calendar is the External East Window: There, carved into the concrete you will find Canada’s Motto, Psalm 72:8 – He shall have dominion also from sea to sea.

In January we display the entire East stained glass window which represents The Call to Arms. In this window, 2 Scripture verses are engraved (not shown here). They are enlarged and displayed in the months of July and August (July – Quit ye like men, be strong – 1 Corinthians 16:13; August – Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle – Psalm 18:39).

In February – we display the photo which says: Prosper thou, build… He shall make thy way prosperous 1 Chronicles 22:11-13).

In March– We display the Altar of Remembrance that can be seen in the book – The Legacy of 25 Scriptures, on the page opposite the one that says ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’.

In April– We display The figure of Justice (for Easter). This figure in the South stained glass window shows the drawing of Christ crucified on the cross. The ultimate sacrifice of His life for ours.

In May – We display the External West Window. There in the concrete is engraved in the Scripture verse, Where there is no Vision the people perish – Proverbs 29:18.

In June – We display the entire West stained glass window which represents The Dawn of Peace.

In July – As already noted, is the Scripture verse: Quit ye like men, be strong.

In August – As already noted, you find the Scripture verse – Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle.

In September – We thought it would be an accurate portrayal of the end of summer to show you a close-up of the Scripture found in the West window – The fields are white to harvest – John 4:35.

In October – We display from the East stained glass window, the Scripture verse which says: Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory – 1 Corinthians 15:57.

In November– We display the external South Window. There, engraved in the concrete is the Scripture verse: Give the King thy judgements O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son – Psalm 72:1.

In December – We display the entire South stained glass window which shows the Angel Gabriel, St. George slaying the dragon, and the figure of Justice with Christ on the cross.

Share this information with your friends. They might want to get their own calendars once they have read the subsequent posts with links to the renovations.

Waiting for you in Installment #3…

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