Rockwood Academy

Giaimo has been engaged by the Ontario Heritage Trust to lead a heritage conservation consultant team to undertake capital and maintenance work for the stewardship of Rockwood Academy. Constructed in 1853, the property includes a Georgian-style three-storey stone building with expansive rural grounds and several outbuildings. The rehabilitation of Rockwood Academy, one of the cultural heritage properties owned by the Trust, will support future adaptive reuse.

Client

Ontario Heritage Trust

Location

Rockwood, Ontario

Start Date

January 2023

Area

12,120 sq.ft.

Status

Construction

Type

Institutional

Team

Giaimo, Prime Architect and Heritage Architect

Tacoma Engineering, Structural

Spline, Mechanical and Electrical

Image Credits

Giaimo

Heritage

Rockwood Academy is a provincial heritage property of provincial significance under Part III.1 of the Ontario Heritage Act. Rockwood Academy is particularly significant due to its association with early education in Upper Canada, and with the arts. Originally a rural boarding school, the landscape includes a sloping topography that is gently incorporated into the building, as well as many trees that have remained over the century. The building has an interesting history of adaptive reuse, at one point being used as a woolen mill, then farmhouse. In the 1960s, sculptor Yosef Drenters purchased the property and restored it as an artist live-work space. In 1978, the Trust entered into a property easement agreement, and property ownership was eventually transferred to the Trust in 1986.


View of the south side showing rear gymnasium addition and covered carriage way – c. 1900

Process

The building has three main components; the 1854 Wetherald Block, the 1864 South Wing, and a carriage shed and gymnasium, added in 1867. Since 2023, Giaimo has overseen the building envelope conservation and structural rehabilitation at Rockwood Academy. Conservation work includes the restoration of the roofing and chimney, masonry and mortar joints, all surface deterioration and mismatching of mortars, foundations, doors, windows, porches, stairs, and railings. Further work includes upgraded electrical systems, and a new electric-based heating system, eliminating the buildings reliance on combustion and fossil fuels. These mechanical and electrical upgrades were flexibly designed to prepare the building for future programming.

Challenges

The building envelope has experienced significant impacts over the years. The previous owner’s commitment to the restoration of the building included some experimentation with materials that were incompatible with the underlying historic materials.

As an artist, the previous owner also introduced found object sculptures throughout the property, along with vibrant colour schemes throughout the interior. The recognition that the building is both an artistic work and a historic structure, raised uncommon challenges for this project. Approaching this project as a rehabilitation, we embraced the important contribution of the previous owner and intervened as minimally as possible on the interior. On the exterior, the sculptural railings, and restoration work was maintained, while the Portland cement was removed from the granite and limestone facades, and they were fully repointed with a lime mortar.

Repairs were also made to the east porch wall and slab that had deteriorated. This work included drainage, re-sloping to prevent water ingress, as well as the provision of new steel lintel structural reinforcement.


Before exterior restoration work

After exterior restoration work

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