The City of Revelstoke has resurrected its controversial plan to encase city hall in foam and acrylic stucco, a retrofit widely discredited by the heritage community. In 2012, Reid Jones Christoffersen, building science engineers, found that the stucco installed 30 years ago is delaminating and should be removed. Cores cut from the underlying historic concrete found it to be in good structural condition and the original painted surface could be restored.
In the early 20th century, modernism was sweeping Europe and a new international style was established by the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne in Paris. Honest expression of materials and industrial techniques were promoted to transform society. In the 1930’s, Streamline Moderne combined concrete, glass and metal in sweeping curves and bold horizontal lines inspired by Cubism. The streamline aesthetic was applied broadly: bus stations, theatres and car showrooms, along with Airstream trailers, locomotives and refrigerators were designed in the Moderne style, as was Revelstoke’s city hall.
Charles Van Norman was one of the first architects in British Columbia to explore this international style. His design for Revelstoke’s city hall is a notably refined example of early modernist architecture in Canada. Today, the streamlined interior is lost forever and the crisp white exterior is concealed under thick brown stucco. The proposed new and thicker covering will create a bunker-like appearance, windows will be recessed, and edges blunted. During installation the historic concrete walls will be irreversibly damaged.
City hall clearly asserts Revelstoke’s place in the new modernism of the early 20th century. Revelstoke needs to embrace the cultural value of city hall as a precious example of early Moderne architecture in British Columbia. The heavy stucco overlay should be removed the original smooth white concrete walls exposed again.
Retired Architect, AIBC