The Ortona Armoury has had an interesting life. It was built as a stable by HBC in 1914. Since then, it has housed organizations ranging from the Edmonton Pure Butter Company to the Department of National Defense. It currently houses artists studios and several arts organizations. The City of Edmonton is preparing to rehabilitate the building, so this may be the last opportunity to see the building with its historic layout and interior finishing.
So, why is this important? The Ortona Armoury is a perfect example of the challenges and opportunities inherent in historical preservation and adaptive reuse. The building has a long, varied history of use, and current tenants with a strong connection to the building. How do we preserve buildings that have been changing constantly through their livetimes, and how do we balance heritage and current use? These questions are relevant to many other buildings in Edmonton.
The tour will be led by two people who are deeply familiar with the building. Marlena Wyman is Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, and a former studio artist in the Ortona building for over twenty years. Michael Caskenette is on the Ortona Armoury Tenants Association, and has been deeply involved in the administration and maintenance of the building since the mid-1990s. Both are active advocates for the building’s preservation.
In Situ is an ongoing series in which we take design talks out of the lecture theatre and into the real world.