Pilkington Building Redevelopment

Chris Roberts | EVDS Faculty

Simpson Roberts Architecture and Interior Design



Calgary’s historic Pilkington building was transformed from a state of abandonment into the international headquarters of a prominent web design firm. Built as a glass factory in 1913, its recent history involved several failed attempts for resurrection. Vacancy ultimately ensued and the building became occupied by squatters and vagrants. Conceptually we addressed the building as an archeological, or found, artifact. Our goal was to retain the structural and historic character of the building while establishing a clear delineation between old and new. Anything new was deliberately separated from the building envelope to look as though it was simply placed within the space. All building code and life safety issues were resolved under this mandate. The exit stairs were designed of steel latticework with open treads, appearing suspended in the enclosed wells. A new elevator shaft, placed outside of the original peripheral walls and clad in corrugated steel, appears super-imposed against the existing flat exterior elevation. In contradiction to the heavy massing and permanence of the historic structure, it also seems as though it could be simply “un-glued” and removed. To reflect on the history of the Pilkington, we attempted to acknowledge the chronology in its entirety. Certainly, architectural restoration prioritizes the material state of the original structure, but its sociological history is also significant in piecing it back together. The state in which the Pilkington was rescued was obviously one of decay. Its scars establish a contextual lineage, visually referencing both success and defeat.