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A Natural High
May 19, 2010 | James Bradshaw | Globe and Mail
After six years and $250-million, the Canadian Museum of Nature reopens with an eye-popping exhibit

'The renovations at the Canadian Museum of Nature were less a cosmetic nip and tuck than emergency surgery. Its historic site on Ottawa’s McLeod Street had the architectural equivalent of a broken back, its wings cracking and sinking around the building’s stone spine.

The Tudor-Gothic architecture sitting on soft Leda clay had gradually become a lopsided disaster, complete with increasingly uneven floors and slanted window frames.

“The building was really in sad shape,” says Maureen Dougan, the museum COO who has spearheaded its $250-million revival. “Some cracks were so large I walked through them.”

On Saturday, Canada’s oldest national museum will fully re-open with a three-day celebration after six years of renovations and partial closings. So complex was the task set for PKG Joint Venture Architects, a consortium including Bruce Kuwabara of Toronto’s KPMB and Ottawa-based Barry Padolsky, that to fully close the museum would only have saved about six months. The central conundrum was stabilizing the building with a steel “endoskeleton” composed of 1.8 million kilograms of seismic steel.

As it happens, the building will open its doors bang on time, on Biodiversity Day, in Biodiversity Year, exactly 100 years after the building was completed. And the renovation is the “first major breakthrough” for the Museum of Nature in a very long time, points out CEO Joanne DiCosimo.'

Text by James Bradshaw, Ottawa, The Globe and Mail

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