By RTH Staff
Published November 06, 2008
E.R.A. Architects, recently the heritage consultant for the City of Hamilton's City Hall Renovation project, have just publicly announced their resignation from the project, citing the Council vote to replace the marble cladding on the City Hall building with preformed concrete.
City Council voted in 2005 to designate City Hall as a municipal heritage property, citing the marble cladding as a primary heritage feature.
Designation requires the property owner to maintain the building's heritage features, but Council voted in October to replace the marble in the four decade old building with preformed concrete cladding. This required Council to grant itself a special permit to violate its own heritage rules.
Council rejected the compromise option of using limestone cladding, which would be cheaper than replacing the marble but slightly more expensive than concrete. Heritage advocates accept that limestone would be an acceptable replacement for marble and far superior to concrete, but Council rejected this choice on the basis of cost.
Local heritage advocates pointed out that the Council vote to skirt its own heritage rules opens the door to private heritage property owners demanding the same leniency.
Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, chair of the City Hall Renovation Committee and a strong advocate of the precast concrete option, agreed. "I would suspect that council would come on side with [the property owners]."
After acknowledging that the renovation "requires a balance of heritage, functional and financial objectives", E.R.A. Architects stated that they believe "the integrity of the design of the building" would be "too devalued for the firm to continue in its consultant role" now that the building's main heritage component is being removed.
Here is the full text of the letter:
E.R.A. decided to resign as heritage consultant for the Hamilton City Hall Renovation project when a large majority of City Council voted in favour of replacing the book-matched marble cladding on the building with precast concrete, against the advice of the A.B.E. consortium team who is carrying out the project.
The retrofit and conservation of the 1960s heritage-designated building necessarily requires a balance of heritage, functional and financial objectives. When the Council vote rejected even a compromise recommendation using limestone, E.R.A. decided that the integrity of the design of the building by Stanley Roscoe, at that time the City Architect, and its heritage value, recognized by the City's own designation, would be too devalued for the firm to continue in its consultant role.
The pride of the citizens of Hamilton in their City Hall has been let down by the Council decision and by just how much will emerge as the precast concrete weathers and soils without the dignity of natural stone.
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