2023 Architectural Conservation Award goes to project reusing Halifax church as choral concert hall

Architects from Dalhousie University and Université de Montréal were recognized for their projects focusing on architectural conservation in Canada.

Erin Haliburton received the Foundation’s award for her work on adaptive reuse of a decommissioned Halifax church into a concert hall for choral music.  Paloma Castonguay-Rufino, Université de Montréal, received an honourable mention for a doctoral thesis dealing with rehabilitation of Canada’s industrial heritage through architectural design.

Haliburton’s project is informed by the historic intersection of choral music, church architecture, and acoustics. “My thesis will include the concept design of the adaptive reuse of a decommissioned church in Halifax, turning it into a concert hall catered especially towards the performance of choral music,” said Haliburton.

“Retrofitting concert halls into decommissioned churches is a suitable use of these buildings, as they maintain churches as sites of community gathering and capitalize off of the existing bonds between church architecture and music.”

Erin Haliburton

In reviewing Haliburton’s project, the award jurors appreciated Haliburton’s “application of her knowledge of choral music to the real-world, immediate problem of what to do with places of worship that can no longer be supported by their congregations. Her proposal to work with acousticians to study the physical properties of historic churches to better understand how they can enhance our experience of music also promises to expand our knowledge of how we appreciate historic places in general. We don’t listen to buildings enough, and the relationship between acoustics and conservation is one that deserves further investigation. Erin’s work shows great promise as a contribution to that effort.”

Castonguay-Rufino’s project deals with assessing the architectural quality of industrial heritage. As she wrote in her application, “Rehabilitation through architectural design is the hypothesis advanced here. This research proposes a method for objectifying the heritage value of industrial heritage in the Canadian context, based on the principle of exemplarity of built projects.”

In announcing the honourable mention, the jury cited:  “Paloma’s project to study European practices in the rehabilitation of derelict industrial sites, and their potential application in the Canadian context, is a focused and well-developed proposal. Under-recognized as cultural artifacts, industrial structures seldom enjoy protection from heritage policy and yet they are durable and often arresting buildings. From both a cultural and sustainability perspective, examining international best practices for their adaptive reuse is a potentially valuable contribution to the discipline.”

The jury for the 2023 award included:  John Blumenson, Foundation representative and columnist for the Toronto Star; Julia Gersovitz, Trustee RAIC Foundation; and Allan Teramura, Watson MacEwen Teramura Architects.  Gersovitz did not participate in reviewing Castonguay-Rufino’s submission due to a conflict of interest.

By Marianne Fedunkiw

Images courtesy of RAIC Foundation


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