Conestoga news

April 13, 2012 2:13 PM

Bringing young ideas to old challenges

A class of Conestoga College students have brought fresh insight to some old challenges. Their goal was to come up with a new concept for an old building in Cambridge.

Over the last two months, the group of second-year students from the college’s architect project and facility management program have wrestled with the challenge of how space might be better used at the Fire Museum & Education Centre on Dickson Street.

This is the fifth year that students have used the museum as a test bed for their ideas and concepts. In previous years, the class has transformed the Old Galt Fire Hall into everything from trendy boutiques and restaurants, to a children’s library.

“Every year they keep coming up with something different,” said the museum’s acting curator Jim Westwood. “And every year each of the groups come up with a few nuggets that we can use.”

After reading a city report detailing what future renovations of the 1898 fire hall might cost, five of the six student teams opted to develop their own vision of what the fire museum could look like one day.

“This is a great project for our students,” said Prof. Ron Bean. “It’s no longer just a theoretical exercise for them. It could be something that might actually happen.”

After a thorough tour of the building in January, the students investigated similar facilities in other communities to get ideas and flesh out their concepts.

The teams looked at everything from Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the new Guelph Civic Museum, and the Wilmot Heritage Fire Brigade museum in Baden.

Groups also met with Cambridge city staff to discuss building and fire code requirements as well as getting advice on how to work with a heritage-designated building. The teams recently presented their concepts to peers, museum staff and guests.
“They did an incredible job,” said Pauline Todkill, a member of the Waterloo Region Heritage Foundation. “They really worked as teams and I was really impressed by their energy and attention to detail.”

“Some of their ideas were really out there,” Westwood said. “We’ve been looking at what to do with this building for more years than I care to think about, but they came up with some ideas we’d never thought of. It was really good.”

Museum officials are now organizing an exhibition of the students’ work at the fire hall, which will run through April.

This article by Ray Martin originally appeared in the Cambridge Times, on Thursday, April 12, 2012.