Volume 12, Number 12 February 18, 2005

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U of S wins masonry awards

By Colleen MacPherson

The Thorvaldson building displays the University's Collegiate Gothic architecture.

The Thorvaldson building displays the University's Collegiate Gothic architecture.

The University’s efforts to maintain and expand its widely recognized Collegiate Gothic style of architecture on campus has earned it a special award from the Saskatchewan Masonry Institute.

At a ceremony held Jan. 29 in Regina, the U of S received The Highest Use of Masonry award from the organization which is made up of professional contractors and suppliers dedicated to promoting innovative, high-quality use of masonry. Colin Tennent, director of planning and development and University architect, said the new award, one of four the University received that evening, “is a fairly important and noteworthy reminder” of the quality, durability and overall excellence of the stonework featured so prominently on many campus buildings.

“I’m thrilled”, he said, that the University’s masonry has been recognized by the Saskatchewan institute which is associated with the Canadian Masonry Institute. That organization of owners, architects, engineers, designers and builders “really brings some weight and authority to an award of this sort”. He noted the Saskatchewan awards are handed out only once every four years.

The award plaque is made of imported Indian black granite engraved with an image of the College Building, considered one of the finest examples of Collegiate Gothic anywhere and one of the most significant historic restorations underway in Canada today, said Tennent. He expects the plaque will find a home in the College Building itself when it reopens this year.

As well as the highest use recognition, the U of S received awards of excellence for masonry design on the Kinesiology Building and the Spinks Addition. It also got an honourable mention in the industrial category for sympathetic design reproduction on the brick Engineering Building addition which was so well done “it looks as if it’s been there since 1925” when the original structure was built. The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union also won an award of excellence for the Memorial Union Building addition.

In many circles, the U of S and Princeton University campuses are thought to be the best examples of Collegiate Gothic architecture in North America, said Tennent, and masonry is key to that style. Locally available fieldstone, or greystone, forms the bulk of the exteriors of both original and new campus buildings. The second façade element was originally Indiana limestone but when it became too expensive and hard to procure, the University switched to Tyndall stone quarried in Manitoba.

In addition to looking good, “there’s no question masonry is the way to go” if you want buildings to last, he said.

The University is the biggest user of masonry products in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, and is “easily the biggest” among Canadian universities. Tennent said one expert has pointed out the University of Colorado at Boulder is the only post-secondary institution in North America that uses more masonry than the U of S.

And the amounts of stone are staggering. According to the masonry contractors, some 2.6 million pounds of fieldstone and Tyndall stone went into construction of the Spinks Addition with another 2.8 million pounds used on the Kinesiology Building. Tennent said Gillis Quarries Ltd. at Garson, Man., which has supplied Tyndall stone for 56 campus projects, has on occasion “been going full-out” to supply just one customer – the University of Saskatchewan.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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