APEGGA Supports a Bridge to Better Understanding
Your Ducts Are Showing
Revamped Space and Science Centre
Shows Off its Building Techniques
BY NORDAHL FLAKSTAD
Elementary students often streamed past as workers completed renovations
at the Edmonton Space and Science Centre. In doing so, the curious children
inadvertently got a lesson in construction, before they even entered the
However, as architect Donna Clare, MAAA, explains, these constructive
lessons didn't end with the completion late last month of the $14-million
facelift and expansion of the popular Edmonton attraction. The education,
in fact, is just beginning a new era.
The additions will enhance the 17-year-old centre's role as an entertainment
and educational setting where visitors, particularly kids, are exposed
to the wonders of down-to-earth and extraterrestrial science. But there's
a further, not-so-hidden agenda, says Ms Clare.
The centre's new, 3,066-square-metre addition also will serve as a permanent
exhibit enlightening visitors about the scientific principles and construction
techniques that keep the centre standing and humming. The designs leave
a lot of the ductwork and structural components exposed; in most other
buildings, they'd be hidden.
"We wanted to show the technology and a lot of the building materials,"
says Ms Clare, with the Cohos Evamy Partnership, the group responsible
for architectural design and engineering on the project. She's pointing
to a connector plate on some cross-bracing by way of an example. And she's
standing next to a cable-stay bridge that connects the existing and new
parts of the centre.
Using the same technique employed in the rest of the building, the interior
APEGGA Bridge doubles as a demonstration of what makes up a bridge and
what makes it stay in place. (See this month's cover story.)
Good Looking Structure
Having form fit function while meeting esthetic standards isn't always
easy. Says Cohos Evamy's Scott Murphy, P.Eng., the project's chief structural
engineer: "We wanted to expose the frame to show the structural exhibits
while making them nice enough to be exposed."
Similarly, exposing mechanical elements, such as heating and ventilation
ducts, required some added restraint and planning, says mechanical engineer
Shanon Warner, P.Eng. Special efforts were made to have mechanical elements
parallel the lines of major architectural features.
While the structure's lifelines are built to be seen in some areas, in
the display galleries pipes and wiring are less apparent or completely
hidden. This ensures the building doesn't upstage the exhibits.
There were other special challenges in connecting and integrating the
addition to the existing 5,300-square-metre facility, built almost a generation
ago. The latter houses the 275-seat IMAX theatre and 250-seat Margaret
Zeidler Star Theatre (planetarium), as well as a computer lab, hands on-activity
areas, exhibit galleries and meeting rooms, plus support facilities, such
as a gift shop, a cafeteria and administrative space.
The original centre, now an Edmonton landmark, opened in 1984 as the Space
Sciences Centre and was designed by renowned Alberta-born architect Douglas
Cardinal. The circular structure has been described -- perhaps unkindly
-- as a lopped-off tree trunk left after some giant passed through with
a machete. More sympathetically and as the architects intended, others
say it looks more like a spaceship.
Space Age Look
To provide continuity and to respect the existing architecture, the space
metaphor has been extended. The titanium-tainted glass addition can be
thought of as a space station linked to the "spaceship" by a
docking arm in the form of a completely redesigned and striking entrance,
which provides a single point of public access.
Electrical engineer Ed Pon, P.Eng., explains that an array of adjustable
lighting with a space-age effect will greet visitors in the reception
The expansion also provides for three new galleries: the Greens' House,
which concentrates on the natural environment and sustainability; Mystery
Avenue, centring on forensic and investigative sciences used by police;
and the Body Fantastic, with a health, wellness and medical focus.
The design professionals and contractors (Jen-Col Construction Ltd.) benefited
from the insight of AldrichPears Associates Ltd., a Vancouver-based firm
with special expertise in developing museum and other exhibit space. UMA
Engineering Ltd. provided landscape consulting, to enhances the appeal
and utility of sheltered outdoor courtyards and other exterior spaces.
Science activities and instruction will sometimes take place in these
Consultants, builders and centre staff are particularly proud that such
a major renovation took place with no shut down at this valued educational
facility. And with a constant flow of curious grade-schoolers passing
through, that was no easy task -- in terms of logistics and of safety.