July 2001

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APEGGA Supports a Bridge to Better Understanding

Your Ducts Are Showing
Revamped Space and Science Centre
Shows Off its Building Techniques

Freelance Writer

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 building.

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 area.

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 outdoors locales.

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.



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