August 9, 2012
90-year-old Toronto building transformed into commercial art gallery
For art world veteran Belinda Chun, transforming a dilapidated, 90-year-old building on gritty Dundas Street West in Toronto into a commercial gallery turned into a two-year labour of love.
Completed on a shoestring budget, the project was undertaken by a team that included Altius Architecture Inc., Lewitt Construction Inc., structural engineers Hamann Engineering and mechanical engineers Tracon Services Inc.
While contractors handled the heavy lifting, Chun and her husband Ian McFadyen managed all the finishing touches, including installing hardwood floors, painting, framing, insulating and drywall.
“It was back-breaking work,” said Chun, noting that the original eight-month time line turned into a grueling 24-month schedule.
The conversion of the down-at-the-heels building at 2068 Dundas Street West into a gallery required a virtual gutting of the premises. A third floor was added to house an apartment for the owners.
“The building needed everything,” said Cathy Garrido, a partner in 14-year-old Altius, a Toronto-based multidisciplinary design firm. “It needed structural work, it needed mechanical work, it needed electrical work. “
The building once housed commercial cleaners. Part of the original foundation was crumbling. New steel columns were installed from the foundation up through the ground floor in order to support the second and third floors.
The exterior structure was retained, where usable.
“When we opened up the walls, there were places where the interior finishes opened directly onto the neighbour’s wall, which meant sections of the side wall were essentially missing,” Garrido said.
“We needed to build these sections from the inside out, as the building is built to the property line which is shared with an adjacent building.”
Aside from being in poor condition, the building was “also very ugly,” Garrido said.
“So, we had some work to do to improve the building’s appearance.” The architects also took steps to make the building as energy-efficient as possible, ‘super-insulating” the building envelope and installing an efficient mechanical system.
Construction challenges aside, gaining access to the site also was an issue,, said Lewitt Construction president Ed O’Flanagan, whose firm has worked on projects in conjunction with Altius for about a decade.
“It was a very tight site,” he said.
“We couldn’t come in from the front because of the streetcar wires and the hydro lines. “Everything had to come in through a laneway at the back. The neighbours were adamant that access had to be maintained.”
But at the end of the day, O’Flanagan said, Chun and her husband ended up with a “very functional building that also looks sharp and represents very good value for money.
“I think everyone is extremely happy with how the project turned out.” The formal opening of Gallery House is scheduled for late September.
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