New Brunswick

Centennial Building project's mix of old and new presented challenge

Architects faced some challenges coming up with a design for Fredericton's new courthouse as well as a way to redevelop and preserve the best of the Centennial Building on the same site.

New courthouse will be ready in 2020, while the Centennial Building reno will be ready in 2021

The Centennial Building in Fredericton lost a wing for the renovation project now underway that will give the Court of Queen's Bench, Court of Appeal and provincial court a new home. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Architects faced some challenges coming up with a design for Fredericton's new courthouse and a way to redevelop and preserve the best of the Centennial Building on the same site.

The new courthouse will be connected to what remains of the Centennial Building, the home of many provincial government offices before they moved across the street five years ago.

Literally, someone working with Q-Tips and toothbrushes, paired up against someone working with an excavator.- Brent Stewart, architect

"It is definitely a cultural icon within Fredericton and certainly is well-established as a piece of very fine, modern heritage architecture," Brent Stewart of Goguen Architecture of Fredericton said.  

The Centennial Building, which opened in 1967 at St. John and King streets, has been designated a heritage building in New Brunswick. 

"That building would easily be recognized within the province as one of the finer pieces of modern architecture," Stewart  said.  

The government had to get rid of the back wing of the building, however, to make way for the new courthouse, which will replace the existing home for the provincial court, Court of Queen's Bench and the Court of Appeal a few blocks away on Queen Street.

"Designing and building a six-storey courthouse has its own set of challenges by any terms," Stewart said.

A view of the construction site that became the Centennial Building in the 1960s. (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)

"To then turn around and say, 'We're going to demolish part of an existing building to make way for a new courthouse, and then we're going to restore the Centennial Building, gets you thinking on quite a long timeline."

To help carry out the $76-million project, Stewart hired a restoration specialist along with a courthouse specialist.

"Literally, someone working with Q-Tips and toothbrushes, paired up against someone working with an excavator," he said.

Exterior of the present Fredericton courthouse on Queen Street, which will be replaced by the new building. (CBC)

The new courthouse will be on the southeast portion of the Centennial Building site. The new design includes main level secure parking for the judiciary, a secure detention area, a sheriff's suite,11 courtrooms and two hearing rooms for the provincial court, Court of Queen's Bench and Court of Appeal.

Stewart is hopeful the building will be a positive piece of new infrastructure for the city. 

But keeping an old building while making way for a new one has its challenges, including how to go about demolishing the south wing of the building, while "preserving key elements of the Centennial Building," such as the building's sandstone, east and west facade, and the restoration of the building's curtain wall.

The new Fredericton courthouse will be connected to the Centennial Building by a two-storey pathway looking out on a plaza. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Meanwhile, on the interior of the Centennial Building, there were pieces of prominent artwork. 

"I would have conversations on a relatively regular basis with an art conservator, put down the phone after talking with her, and then speak to a guy who is going to do demolition contracting on the back of the building," he said.  

The courthouse will be ready in March 2020 and the Centennial Building in March 2021.  

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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