UBC to rebuild Museum of Anthropology's Great Hall for seismic upgrades

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      One of the most famous and architecturally significant structures in Vancouver is being rebuilt in order to boost its resilience to seismic activity.

      Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson designed the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), which opened in 1976, using the cedar post-and-beam structure of traditional West Coast Indigenous architecture as inspiration.

      The latest UBC building evaluations that were conducted as part of a seismic resilience plan identified the MOA’s Great Hall, which houses massive carvings from northwest coast First Nations, as one of the campus spaces that are the most vulnerable to seismic activity.

      Due to simulations for major earthquake scenarios, the Great Hall has been prioritized for seismic upgrades.

      There were two solutions.

      One was to reinforce the structure to current building standards. However, this option would necessitate significant modifications to the existing columns, in addition to adding new columns and brackets that were not a part of Erickson’s vision.

      The other option was to rebuild the structure, which would preserve the appearance of the original design and its famed silhouette.

      Due to the architectural heritage significance of the building, the university opted to rebuild the structure.

      The rebuilding process has involved consultations with the Arthur Erickson Foundation and the Musqueam Indian Band, who are providing cultural perspectives.

      Indigenous communities and families are providing input for protocols about moving their cultural objects that must be relocated elsewhere in the museum during construction as well as reinstalling them in the new rebuilt structure.

      The first poles have already been lowered and moved from the Great Hall to other parts of the museum, and this work will continue throughout November.

      Then in December, a temporary wall structure will be erected between the Great Hall and the rest of the museum. Consequently, the Great Hall will be closed to the public.

      Reconstruction work for the Great Hall, which will reportedly cost $30.5 million, is expected to continue throughout 2021, with the aim of reopening in late 2022.

      Seismic improvements will entail base isolation technology, in which rubber or sliding bearings (or base isolators) will be placed between the foundation (footings) and the superstructure (the columns and beams). If the ground shakes during an earthquake, the isolators will allow the building to move, which will thereby mitigate the impact of the quake upon the structure.

      In addition, the museum will also have new skylights and glazing, lighting, and an upgraded fire-detection system, while retaining the current structural appearance.

      During this construction project, the other parts of the museum will remain open and continue to show exhibitions and displays.

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