Track 3: DELIVERY – INTERVENING INTO HISTORIC PLACES / Volet 3 : Réalisation – Intervenir dans les lieux historiques

The 180 Wellington Building Mosaic Conservation

Friday, October 13
10:30 AM - 12:15 PM

Kelly Caldwell*, Joseph Sembrat, Mark Rabinowitz, James Bourdeau, Wendy Baker, Eric Stein

Commissioned in 1927, the Beaux-Arts styled Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, designed by architects D. Everett Waid (New York) and J.A. Ewart (Ottawa), houses an excellent example of a unique Art Deco ceiling mosaic in a modern Byzantine style. The mosaic design was created by renowned mural artist Barry Faulkner, with work completed by the Ravenna Mosaic Company, a well-known highly-skilled glass mosaic firm, established in St. Louis, Missouri and New York City, New York. The suspended barrel-vaulted ceiling mosaic intricately depicts various scenes of disasters and protection, by the female personification of the company vanquishing mythical beasts, healing the sick, giving out pensions, and replacing people’s houses after they had been burned down. The scale and minute detail of the mosaic stand as a unique example of mosaic artistry in Canada.
The elaborately coloured mosaic, ranging from multiple shades of gold to neon, is in located in the north entrance vestibule of the Wellington Building at 180 Wellington Street in Ottawa, ON. The mosaic began its recent revitalization story as part of an ambitious multi-year rehabilitation project of Public Services and Procurement Canada to seismically reinforce the building and to convert it for use by Parliament’s House of Commons. The overall aim of this project was to ensure the stability of the mosaic and sub-structures and to maintain the aesthetic integrity and heritage values. This project was successfully completed in 2016.
The collaborative efforts of the multidisciplinary team of conservators, conservation scientists, and architects culminated in the protection and preservation of this vulnerable mosaic throughout the various phases of the rehabilitation project. This work included consultation and research with the Getty Conservation institute and mosaic specialists, heritage recording, materials analysis, vibration monitoring, and the resulting conservation treatments.
Our presentation will explore the intricate details and manufacturing techniques of the mosaic in conjunction with its conditions. We will discuss the stability of the mortar, glass tesserae, and vault substrate. Analytical results that identified the mortar, tesserae, grout carried out by The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) will be outlines, along with the stabilization protection strategy. The presentation will focus on the work carried out by Conservation Solutions ULC (CSI), including the detailed condition assessments, where each tesserae was evaluated using a range of documentation techniques. Treatments ranging from grout replacement and compensation for lost tesserae, to stabilization efforts will be discussed, keeping in mind a minimal intervention approach in order to preserve the historic character, materials, and aesthetic of the vaulted ceiling. As work was carried out as part of an active construction site, the constraints and accomplishments of this type of project will be examined.

Learning Objectives:

Kelly Caldwell, MA, MSc

Conservation Solutions ULC

Kelly has over nine years of expereience in Heritage Preservation and Conservation, and holds an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums (2009) and an MA in Principles of Conservation (2006) from the Institute of Archaeology at the University College London. As a Conservator for Conservation Solutions, based in the Canada, she brings a unique perspective to the team based on her previous work experience in architectural and archaeological conservation and preservation, as well as experience in collections management. Kelly acted as the Lead Conservator and Project Manager for the 180 Wellingtion Mosaic Conservation Project. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators (CAPC/ACRP), and member of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).


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