Approximately 90 percent of the materials which were used to construct City Hall over 100 years ago can be reused when the landmark structure is being restored, Ed Morton, one of the consultants working on the Restoration Plan, revealed yesterday afternoon at a workshop.
The two-day workshop to develop the Comprehensive Restoration Plan and Sustainable Comprehensive Management Plan for City Hall was launched yesterday at the Roraima Duke Lodge in Kingston and featured presentations by Francis Maude, the Specialist Conservation Architect, and Morton, whose speciality is structural engineering.
During the workshop, Maude and Morton were questioned on the structural integrity of the now decrepit building, and the latter explained that it was difficult to estimate by percentage how “structurally sound” the building is currently. However, he explained that a building would need at least 10 percent structural integrity for it to be restored, and that the approximately 90 percent of the “fabric” can be reused to restore City Hall.
Morton explained that the contractors will be able to replace damaged parts of larger structures instead of changing the entire thing. However, he said it would also be up to the contractor to decide on whether to keep or replace certain materials.
“It is important that the contractor have the will to want to keep the materials…,” he said, while pointing out that they will need a contractor who “understands the philosophy” of restoring and preserving historic buildings.
The workshop which was launched by the CEO of the National Trust of Guyana, Nirvana Persaud included the Mayor of Georgetown Patricia Chase-Green, the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation, Jernej Videtic and the Director of Culture of Tamika Boatswain, among the featured speakers
Persaud explained that the project will focus on preparing a comprehensive restoration and sustainable conservation management plan for City Hall, as well as the City’s Engineer’s Building. It is their hope that the plan will guide the building’s refurbishment and its long-term preservation.
In addition to the condition assessment and the feasibility analysis, the plan will include a restoration management plan which will have proposals on how to continuously upkeep the infrastructure.
“An additional component is capacity building and the need for stakeholders to benefit from this project,” she added.
She said that while minor rehabilitation works were done on the crumbling building, no detailed development plan to guide the future works and restoration was ever devised. The plan is not only expected to address the restoration of City Hall, but will also be used as a systematic approach, which will be in line with international standards, on how to address and restore other historic buildings.
The plan will take into consideration the necessary alterations, change of materials, accessibility and the long term management for its preservation.
Engagement on the plan had started in 2016 where several stakeholder meetings and consultations along with site visits were made. The project was subsequently delayed but has now “picked up pace” and according to Persaud, the workshop will be used to assist in the finalising of the plan, which they are hoping will be completed before July, in order to give them adequate time to find funding to implement it.
“We must all come together using all of our various positions and available resources, both public and private institutions, and individuals to ensure that the project is restored and kept for generations to come,” Persaud noted.
Mayor Chase-Green in brief remarks said that she was very elated that the 129-year-old building will finally be restored. She said that during the previous City Council Administration, they had been trying to repair the building, but had always encountered obstacles.
“We need everybody on board to get this done and to not let it be a next New Amsterdam Hospital,” she said, while stating that the City Hall is in such a dire state that the Guyana Fire Service had asked them to evacuate it. She explained that they couldn’t or else it would’ve deteriorated further. The historic old New Amsterdam Hospital was torn down by the previous administration.
Ambassador Videtic, in his brief remarks, said that he hopes that they will be able to share the comprehensive plan by the end of July and that will set a benchmark to enable a transfer of knowledge on how to restore all monuments of historical value in the country.
The presentations were done alternately by Morton and Maude. The first topic was ‘Condition Assessment Methodologies’ and featured tips on how to plan ahead and record findings.
The workshop then covered presentations on Damage Assessment and Feasibility for Repair which focused on the different materials which the building was constructed from, such as concrete, steel, structural timber, cast iron and decorative work, and the joinery, such as the windows, doors, and the external and internal features.
The restoration specialists then delved into the roof, floor, glass, decorative finishes and the plaster. The first day of the workshop concluded with a presentation on Disaster Risk Management and Mitigation Strategies, where the effects of water, fire, termites, fungal decay, vandalism and neglect on the building was discussed.
Morton and Maude pointed out that water damage was one of the major factors for the current state of the building and its continuous decay.
During the presentation the participants asked various questions and made comments. Inquiries were made on the use of new materials and how it would affect the historic feel of the restored building. The consultants explained there is no reason why new materials or techniques shouldn’t be used on the building. They said that they should only be considered if they are going to be used in the “right areas”.
Engineer Bert Carter, who also attended the workshop, questioned whether City Hall was going to be restored or rehabilitated. Maude said that the question was philosophical in nature and it depends on how rehabilitation and restoration are defined. He said that they prefer to use the word conservation which means to preserve and enhance, and it is their intention to repair the building and keep all the historical assets “that has made City Hall so special” but also at the same time, enhance it to make it a suitable building for use in today’s world with new technology.
Town Clerk Royston King, who was also present at the event, told reporters that repairs to the building years ago had been estimated at $400 million, a figure which would’ve increased significantly over the years. In 2010 then Mayor Hamilton Green had said that they needed $400 million for the building’s repairs.