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Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury

Ravaged by fire in April 2008, the Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury is once again part of the landscape of Quebec City. This video presents the work done to restore the historic building, as well as some of the people responsible.

Video Transcript: Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury

Start of video.

[Music plays]

(Text on screen: Restore)

(Commemorative plaque)

(Archived images of the Armoury fire)

(Jean-Benoit Saint-Laurent speaks.)

(Text on screen: Jean-Benoit Saint-Laurent, architect and manager of Public Services and Procurement Canada’s Heritage Conservation Program)

When I first heard that the Armoury was on fire I was home watching the news. I came to see the impact the fire was having on the heritage site. It’s impressive to see what kind of devastation a fire like that can cause.

(Jonathan Chouinard speaks.)

(Archival footage of the Voltigeurs and military firefighters during the fire)

I was nearby at Château Laurier and, like my fellow Voltigeurs, I watched, helpless, as the firefighters beat back the fire as best they could.

(Text on screen: Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Chouinard, former Commanding Officer of the Voltigeurs de Québec)

The regiment is not the building. The regiment continues to operate regardless of conditions, regardless of where they are. We do, however, have a symbol: our colours, our bugles and drums.

(Image of a painting of the Voltigeurs on a mission)

(Jonathan Chouinard shows a woman the regiment’s bugles and drums.)

(Archived images of the day after the fire; members of the regiment are on site)

A small team supported by firefighters managed to enter the building, climb up to the third floor, break the glass and rescue the symbol of our regiment before the building collapsed.

(The Armoury in 1887)

(Text on screen: Built in 1887)

(Jean-Benoit speaks.)

The Armoury was built in 1887 by architect Eugène-Étienne Taché. Canada’s first building constructed in the château style, the Armoury was commissioned by the Government of Canada to house the first official French reserve regiment in Canada.

(The Armoury shortly before the fire)

(Archived image of the Voltigeurs)

Heritage conservation is important in any civilization. We are too quick to want to eliminate all traces of the past and replace them with something more modern, but when we can, we need to ensure the survival of our history and not just our buildings.

(Overview of an architect’s drawing of the Armoury’s facade)

(Digital image of the foyer of the Armoury)

Working on the Armoury project is probably the greatest challenge we have ever faced, in any case, it was for me. It was a complex project.

(Series of images showing the ravaged Armoury: aerial view, facade, interior, debris on the ground, roof)

We participated in the investigations and inspections with the firefighters at the Department of National Defence to determine the source of the fire. Then we began conserving the elements recovered from the debris, everything from bricks and stones to burnt pieces of wood, to see whether we could recover any of them or use them to rebuild. The copper parts of the roof were all recovered, so, while the inspection was going on, we conserved the architectural elements found on the ground.

(Series of images of the Armoury after it was restored: interior, facade)

(Jean-Benoit talks to a woman inside the Armoury.)

We reconstructed the architectural elements, including the ridge crown, the roof, the machicolation, the corbels, the ventilation and the windows to be able to maintain the heritage value associated with the château style.

(Stéphan Langevin speaks.)

(Text on screen: Stéphan Langevin, main architect and designer, STGM architects (A49-DFS-STGM))

(The Armoury in flames)

It was a shock to see the images of the fire on television, to see one of Quebec City’s major monuments go up in smoke.

(Stéphan discusses drawings with a colleague.)

Architecture 49, DFS and our firm joined forces to get the contract. We complement each other in terms of expertise, in particular with respect to heritage buildings.

(Stéphan and three colleagues talk in front of a screen showing a drawing of the Armoury.)

(The Armoury under construction)

(The Armoury’s new modern service room)

(The Armoury’s new multipurpose room)

The first challenge was how we were going to equip the compound with all of the modern amenities it needed to be both functional and comfortable, while maintaining its historical spirit.

(Stéphan enters the multipurpose room from the weapons room and crosses to the other side.)

(The ceiling of the multipurpose room)

(Digital image of a banquet)

From the start, we knew that we were making a multipurpose room. That requires extensive work and study in terms of design, acoustics and lighting. We were able to deal with all of these aspects the right way because the client allowed us to. PSPC had the genius and open-mindedness to let us go the distance. That allowed us to deliver the project in its current form.

(Stéphan walks with a woman on a catwalk above the multipurpose room.)

One of the things I am most proud of at the Armoury is that it is now open to the public. Today, in addition to being a public monument, the Armoury is a gateway to the Plains of Abraham. We succeeded in giving the people back more than an image; we have given them a place where they can gather.

(Series of digital images of the finished Armoury: the foyer, the Commemorative Hall and the catwalk to the Plains of Abraham)

(Aerial photo of the Plains of Abraham)

(Image of the modern facade at the rear)

(Jonathan Chouinard speaks.)

(Two images showing old Voltigeurs uniforms on display)

By reconstructing the building, by respecting its heritage value, I think that we are also respecting our military history, the history of our regiments and the history of the people who served our country.

(Jean-Benoit walks in front of the Armoury.)

(Jean-Benoit touches the stones of the facade.)

(Image of the roof)

(Image of the restored facade)

When I’m outside the building, when I look at the building now, I think that we were able to respond to Eugène-Étienne Taché’s original design and say, “Wow, we’re conserving your building.” We honoured him by restoring the elements he thought up in 1885.

(Text on screen: Public Services and Procurement Canada would like to acknowledge the contributions of STGM Architectes, DFS, Architecture 49, Pomerleau and Voltigeurs de Québec, as well as everyone else who contributed to the completion of this project.)

(Public Services and Procurement Canada Wordmark)

[Music stops]

(Canada Wordmark)

End of video

Government of Canada Conference Centre

Narrowly escaping demolition, Ottawa’s Union Station has undergone a number of transformations since its inception in 1909. Discover this monumental building’s most recent transformation from Government Conference Centre to the new home of the Senate of Canada.

Video Transcript: Transforming the Government Conference Centre

Start of video

[Music plays]

(Pan of façade of the Government Conference Centre)

(Barry Padolsky speaks)

Barry. The Union Station like many railway stations in North America and Europe, it was intended to be monumental.

(Barry Padolsky speaking to camera)

(Text on screen: Barry Padolsky, Heritage Consultant, Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects)

Barry. I came from Winnipeg, after having graduated as an architect at the University of Manitoba. And so I took the train from Winnipeg to Ottawa and my experience in arriving in Ottawa was through this wonderful building that I never forgot.

(Barry looking at the interior of the government conference centre, transition to historic images of the train station)

Barry. About 5 years after I arrived in Ottawa, there was the plan to demolish the Union Station. Thankfully it didn’t happen. I was very fortunate as a lover of Union Station to be engaged by Public Works to prepare a heritage conservation plan for the Government Conference Centre prior to its next use.

(Misty Campbell speaks)

(Text on screen: Misty Campbell, Project Manager (Design), Parliamentary Precinct Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada)

(Misty Campbell speaking to camera)

Misty. It was used as a train station until 1966, in which the decision at that time was to remove the rail lines out of the heart of the city and move them more to the suburbs. Luckily in 1967 it was the centennial year for Canada and so they decided not to tear it down because they didn’t want a big blank hole in downtown and from that point on it was basically used as a government conference centre, until we were lucky enough to be able to discover that the Senate needed a place to house the temporary chamber and we also needed to fix up this building. So the marrying of the two really created a wonderful opportunity to invest money into this building and the time it takes to renovate.

(Historic images of the train station alternating with present day interior and exterior footage, 3D renderings and overhead views of the Government Conference Centre)

Misty. I don’t think people realize the environmental benefits of preserving heritage as well. Not having all that waste of demolishing a building going into the landfill. There was still so much original material here to work with, you know, it’s not something you would readily found anywhere anymore. The cornice details, the ceiling details, I mean, those things, the craftsmanship by hand that when into this building… it’s definitely not something you see now.

(Misty Campbell and Pubudu K. Herath shown discussing construction materials, alternating with interior footage of historic design attributes and Misty speaking to camera)

(Barry Padolsky speaks)

(Barry Padolsky speaking to camera, alternating with footage of Misty, Pubudu and Barry discussing the interior of the building and an image of the interior from the 1970s transitioning to images present day renovations and 3D renderings)

Barry. The work that was done in the 1970s didn’t really respect the heritage attributes of the building, particularly the interior. A lot of the big spaces were chopped up there were interventions that were introduced like translation booths and that, that were kind of carbuncles that spoiled the interior. They put in a huge mezzanine in the concourse building which meant that you couldn’t see the vaulted ceiling. But all that was reversible and I’m thrilled that the architects and to the credit of Public Works, that they are working to enhance this building in a way, which I think, it deserves to be.

(Pubudu K. Herath speaks)

(Pubudu K. Herath speaking to camera, alternating with footage of the different interior features of the building)

(Text on screen: Pubudu K. Herath, Project Manager (Construction), Parliamentary Precinct Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada)

Pubudu. When we took control over the building, the general waiting area was used as a conference center. We had to repurpose that entire area to add two new committee rooms, but also refinish the heritage plaster in the ceiling. We also had to make sure the building met the modern building codes. For example, we had to make sure that the building is accessible. Most importantly we had to make sure the building meets the new seismic codes.

(Misty Campbell speaks)

(Misty Campbell speaking to the camera, alternating with interior footage and a photo montage of construction progress of the exterior of the building)

Misty. When the building was built and used as Ottawa’s Union Station, it was really the epitome of a public building, and then after, when it did become a Government Conference Centre, unfortunately, most of the time it was pretty private. Now we have the opportunity again with the Senate coming and occupying the building, to open it back up for public tours and the public to enjoy the Senate chamber and to walk through the building and really get to see the building as well as see what the Senate does.

(Barry Padolsky speaks)

(Barry speaking to camera, followed by interior images of the building)

(Pan of the exterior rear of the Government Conference Centre, up to an overall view of the historic Parliamentary Precinct)

Barry. Our Union Station in Ottawa is part of a pretty grand ensemble of buildings and squares that make the heart of the National Capital. So it’s a part that contributes to the sense of identity of our Capital and I think it plays its important part there.

(Public Services and Procurement Canada Wordmark)

(Music stops)

(Canada Wordmark)

End of video