Indzeoski is a Communications Officer in the Communications Division at the
Saskatchewan Property Management Corporation.
The Saskatchewan Legislative Building is presently
undergoing an emergency rehabilitation project with a primary objective of
stabilizing the building's foundation. The rehabilitation project will not only
correct structural deficiencies of the building caused by shifting, but will
ensure the safety of those visiting and working in Saskatchewan's most
prestigious historical building. This article looks at the Rehabilitation
The Saskatchewan Legislative
Building is one of the province’s most important historical buildings.
Constructed at the turn of the 19th century, the building was,
and still is today, a sign of the spirit and determination of the people of
Over the past 87 years, the
building has served not only as the centrepiece for government, but also as a
vital link, through tourism and education, to Saskatchewan’s heritage.
Each year, over 50,000 visitors come to see the Legislative Building and
are left in awe of its magnificence.
But time has taken its toll on
the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. Piles installed in 1908 to support
the 167 metre long structure are considered to be undersized by today’s
standards. Building modifications over the years coupled with changing
soil conditions has placed a strain on the original pile foundation. As a
result, the building has shifted, in some instances causing Tyndall stone
fragments- some the size of dinner plates – to break away from the building.
Numerous cracks have also appeared on the Tyndall stone exterior and on a
number of the marble columns which grace the building’s spacious rotunda.
For that reason, a four-year
commitment has been made by the Province of Saskatchewan to stabilize the
building’s foundation and ensure the safety of those visiting and working in
the Legislative Building. The Saskatchewan Legislative Building
Rehabilitation Project will not only stabilize the building’s sinking
foundation, but will also provide an opportunity to upgrade fire code and
accessibility standards and ensure the building remains a vital part of the
The Early Years
It was 1905, and the birth of
Saskatchewan as a province, when the Premier at the time, Walter Scott,
proposed the idea of a home for the assembly and all public service
departments. Prior to the construction of the Saskatchewan Legislative
and Executive Buildings, the Assembly sat in the old Northwest Territorial
Government Building located in Regina.
The province purchased a 168-
acre site south of the Regina business community as the new home for the
Legislature. Seven leading architectural firms were part of a competition
to choose a firm for the project. Included in those, were firms from the United
States, Great Britain, and Canada.
The project was awarded to the
firm of E & W.S. Maxwell of Montreal, who drew up the plans. The
construction work was then carried out by Peter Lyall & Sons of Montreal.
The design called on the firms
to take into account a number of factors, including the call for a dominating
feature such as a dome or tower to act as a landmark. It was originally
proposed the building be clad in red brick and pale bluff stone, however the
building was ultimately faced with Tyndall limestone supplied by quarries in
In the fall of 1908, the initial
driving of the concrete piles began. On October 4, 1909, the Governor General
of Canada, Earl Grey, officially laid the cornerstone at a gala ceremony.
By the end of 1910, the bulk of the interior work was complete to the
point where government offices could move in. In January 1912, the province’s
Legislative Assembly met for the first time in the newly constructed chamber.
Thirty-four different types of
marble, some from as far away as the Island of Cyprus, add to the magnificence
of the building’s interior. Ornate plaster work graces the legislative
building’s hallways while finely crafted woodwork is a predominant feature of
the Legislative Assembly.
In 1912, a cyclone devastated
many parts of Regina. Fortunately, the storm caused only minor damage to
the Legislative Building and repairs were complete in time for the official
opening on October 12, 1912. His Royal Highness, The Duke of Connaught,
dedicated the building at an extravagant opening ceremony complete with
fireworks, flag waving, and beautiful decorations along city streets. The
grandeur of the building immediately caught the attention of not only all of
Saskatchewan, but of all of Canada.
Because of the significance of
this historic building, it has been diligently maintained over the decades.
Ground floor renovations and mechanical work was completed in the 1960’s
and 1970’s. However, constant monitoring of the building by engineering
consultants has found the foundation under the Dome, North, South and East
Wings is shifting and causing the structure to sink into the earth below.
The building’s West Wing was stabilized in 1983, but the current
rehabilitation project marks the most significant restoration of the building
In March 1997, the government of
Saskatchewan announced the rehabilitation project. Stabilizing the
building’s foundation, along with initial design work to ensure the
success of this project, comprise phase 1 of the rehabilitation project.
It is during this phase that approximately 1,800 pre-cast concrete piles
will be installed under the building using a process known as underpinning.
The underpinning phase involves
the greatest amount of work of the entire four-year restoration project.
To install the nearly 1,800 piles, construction crews have had to gain
access directly below the building. Utilizing an access ramp located on
the building’s south side, construction crews will need to excavate
approximately 10,000 metres of earth from under the Dome, North, South and East
Wings. This will be accomplished using small bobcats to do a majority of
the digging. Jackhammers have also been used to break away concrete that
formed the base of the previous one metre high crawl space. Enough earth
has now been dug on the building’s East Wing to provide for a three metre high
work area the length of the building and supply sufficient space to install the
new piles. This will also form the new three metre high crawl space
which will make it easier to work on the mechanical systems that are
attached to the bottom of the building’s concrete floor.
The excavation is proceeding in stages. As crews
excavate the earth exposing the old piles, new piles are installed and the process
The pre-cast concrete piles are
fabricated in one-metre segments and are hydraulically jacked into the earth
below using the underside of the building as a reaction point. Additional pile
segments are then added on to the lowered section and the jacking continues
until the sufficient number of pile sections required to meet strict
specifications have been met. Piles are installed to a minimum depth of
10 metres. To give a better idea of how many piles are necessary, if you
were to take all pile segments and place them on top of one another, it would
stretch 25 kilometres.
Existing piles may have to be
removed to make way for new piles or may simply remain in place.
Engineering consultants will also determine whether to raise or lower
sections of the building to correct the shifting that has occurred. If
carried out, this will be done using hydraulic jacks that have been
strategically placed according to design specifications, on various piles.
While underground, work will
also be done on the existing heating, electrical and ventilation systems that
run under the building.
Phase II and the Master
The rehabilitation project also
presents an opportunity to upgrade accessibility and fire code standards in the
building. This phase of the project is currently in design mode, but will
include upgraded accessibility to those with mobility impairments and the
installation of a fire sprinkler system.
The current rehabilitation
project will also include the development of a master plan. This will
document all physical, operational and code-related building deficiencies.
The plan will then establish a sense of order to these deficiencies so
they can be addressed in a logical and meaningful way. The plan will
establish conservation based guidelines for continued rehabilitation of the
building that are consistent with the heritage characteristics of the building.
The provincial arm of government
overseeing the project, Saskatchewan Property Management Corporation, has been
working very closely with the Heritage Office of Saskatchewan Municipal
Affairs, Culture and Housing, to ensure all heritage aspects are followed in
all phases of construction. All changes will comply with the requirements
of The Heritage Property Act as they apply to provincially designated
The Saskatchewan Legislative
Building remains open to the public and to those who work there during the
course of the four-year project. Current and future sittings of the
Legislative Assembly will not be affected by the underpinning project.
As the Rehabilitation Project
proceeds, regular updates including photographs and a virtual tour under the
building will appear on an Internet site whose address is :