March 2022

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78 | M A R C H 2 0 2 2 Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre ANCASTER MEMORIAL ARTS CENTRE by ROBIN BRUNET T he idea for the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre in Hamilton dates back to 2012, when local politicians, citizens, and arts administrators met to discuss space for their rapidly growing com- munity arts groups. Subsequently, City of Hamilton Ward 12 councillor Lloyd Ferguson spent three years working to obtain a property, during which time fundraising efforts were undertaken. What ultimately resulted was the transformation of the 1947 Ancaster Memorial School into a four-level facility that houses a 450-seat theatre auditorium, a 150-seat multi-pur- pose studio, visual arts classrooms, and music and dance studios. Rom D'Angelo, director of energy, fleet and facility management for the City of Hamilton, says of the project, "It's a great example of how commu- nity needs can be satisfied and an existing structure can be repurposed, rather than contributing to landfill. Plus, most of the 1940s architecture of the school has been preserved." Although Ancaster Memorial had been closed as a school in 1979, a feasibility study involving Invizij Architects determined that the build- ing had good bones. "Invizij, who had worked with us on past projects, then provided us with conceptual designs," D'Angelo recalls. "We were impressed with their ideas of amal- gamating the old school with the new arts components, so we hired them as the prime design consultant." Invizij incorporated the new com- ponents to the south and west sides of the school, thus preserving most of the original building, including its iconic stone portal. But Bob Prince, principal at Invizij, stresses that, "of paramount importance was getting the theatre portion of the project absolutely correct, as this would be the main rev- enue generator for the facility. That was the focal point, and from there we designed from the inside out. We were helped immeasurably by Colin Lapsley, executive director of the Ancaster Society for the Performing Arts. He was a valuable resource in assisting the design team in address- ing all the little 'hands-on' nuances of performances that are so important in delivering a great theatre experience." The theatre's location was also crucial to the project's success. "It's situated where an auditorium in the original school could have been placed, so the flow from the existing build- ing works very well to incorporate it. As well, being set back further on the site avoids the 'big box' effect and makes for a more welcoming build- ing," Prince says. An elevator provided access to all four levels of the revamped facility, and an open lobby (with part of the school's exterior wall serving as a portion of the interior wall) was created that maximized the penetra- tion of natural light into the building. As for the overall task of amalgam- ating the old with the new, Prince says, "We didn't try to recreate the old school design perfectly. Instead, we tried to complement the original building as an example and add some modern elements to it as well – the new brick for the addition complements the existing brick very well, but the new glazed areas add a modern touch." Overall, Prince stresses proj- ects like this require a dedicated team approach. "The City was just as excited and dedicated to the suc- cess of this project as we were and it showed throughout. The construc- tion team was also helpful in terms of bringing their expertise to the table." In November of 2019, Steelcore Construction Ltd. mobilized on site. Numerous challenges were associated with repurposing the school, begin- ning with site constrictions. "In order to get funding we were obliged to sell a chunk of land at the rear of the prop- erty to a developer for townhouse development, so there was less room than we originally intended for lay- down and storage," D'Angelo explains. Kathleen Sampano, senior proj- ect manager at Steelcore, adds, "A portion of the existing building was removed to facilitate the construc- tion of the addition. Existing brick was salvaged for re-use in areas of infills for the original building, for a con- sistent look. The new addition is steel construction with a curtain wall sys- tem, brick, and metal siding panels. "One challenge was tying in the new addition structurally to the origi- nal building due to the construction of the original building. This meant working closely with the consultants during demolition and ongoing con- struction to come up with methods that would work with the design." Another complex aspect of the project pertained to the theatre. Along with the rigging, lighting, and sound equipment, an induc- tion loop system for the hearing impaired was installed. "The wires had to be placed no more than a half inch below the surface of the concrete in the tiered seating auditorium," Sampano explains. "This required close co-ordination between numer- ous trades to ensure this depth and to lay out the wires to avoid loca- tions of where seating would be fastened into the concrete." With the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre expected to open this spring, D'Angelo echoes the senti- ments of his project team by stating, "We're very pleased and excited by the new facility. It's been years in development, but it's a valuable addi- tion to our arts community." A LOCATION 357 Wilson Street East, Ancaster, Ontario OWNER /DEVELOPER City of Hamilton ARCHITECT Invizij Architects Inc. GENER AL CONTR ACTOR Steelcore Construction Ltd. STRUCTUR AL CONSULTANT Kalos Engineering Inc. MECHANICAL /ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT Smith + Andersen L ANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Seferian Design Group CIVIL ENGINEERING S. Llewellyn & Associates Ltd. COMMISSIONING AGENT Morrison Hershfield AUDIO/ VISUAL CONSULTANT Novita ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT Swallow Acoustic Consultants Ltd. / Thornton Tomasetti TOTAL SIZE 2,220 square metres (790 square metres – original building; 1,430 square metres – addition) TOTAL COST $24 million

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