Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, gathered with conservators, masons and construction workers in front of Rideau Hall yesterday to mark the completion of a conservation project on the 169-year-old heritage building.
Recreating a photograph called The Workmen That Rebuilt Government House, November 1913 when the front façade of Rideau Hall was built, Ms. Jean joined a group of about 80 workers and National Capital Commission staff who had contributed to the $6million, year-long upgrade of the same part of the building.
“I believe it takes real art to find a balance between respecting the historic character of a building and making modifications that meet modern requirements,” said Ms. Jean, as she publicly thanked all of those involved in the reconstruction of her home and office.
The project, which began in June 2006, focused on upgrading the front façade of the Mappin Wing, the front part of the building where public functions are held. The last time any work was done on the front entrance was in the 1960s, and those involved said the building was in desperate need of improvement.
“What we had was a very poor-quality stone being subject to to the rigours of the Ottawa weather,” said Jerome Muller, project architect for the National Capital Commission. “There were health and safety concerns because there were fissures in danger of causing some of the stones to fall off.”
Some of the major work included the rehabilitation of the front zone of Rideau Hall’s main building, upgrade of the air-conditioning system, upgrades to the roof, and rehabilitation of the front façade. A masonry conservator also restored carvings on the coat of arms on the outside of the façade.
Though the project was scheduled to be completed in March 2007, the NCC expanded the scope of the reconstruction to include additional work on the foundation of the building. The project was finally complet- ed in mid-September.
“Our architectural heritage helps us understand who we are and where we have been,” said Ms. Jean, referring to the importance of maintaining heritage buildings such as Rideau Hall.
“It is not just an innovation or a restoration, it is something more,” said Mr. Lafond. “It is how to express the past in the present.”
Rideau Hall has been the home of the of the governor general since Confederation in 1867. According to the NCC, about 200,000 people visit the grounds each year.