Our thoughts about government get intertwined with our images of the buildings that house its institutions. Architects know this, and in their designs, they often strive to evoke the key principles governments aspire to—permanence, stolidity, common-sense functionality, even grandeur. These buildings can touch our emotions. They can inspire us.
But no building lasts forever. When the time comes, talented individuals and enterprising companies have to step up and secure the integrity of these landmarks so they can survive to serve and inspire future generations.
The twin themes of this issue are government projects and historic renovation. Many of the projects you’ll see detailed on these pages would qualify in both categories, including three buildings that recently had iconic structures at their peaks meticulously restored. They include the copper pyramids on the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh, North Carolina; the Saskatchewan Legislative Dome in Regina, Saskatchewan; and the Bradford County Courthouse Dome in Towanda, Pennsylvania.
The contractors involved in these projects conveyed the sense of responsibility that comes with keeping these one-of-a-kind structures functioning. But as they talked about the challenges they faced on these projects, it was the love of their jobs that kept coming through.
“We’re using natural, traditional building materials of stone, wood, copper and other noble metals,” said Philip Hoad of Empire Restoration Inc. in Scarborough, Ontario, as we talked about the Saskatchewan Dome project. “That’s what drives me to love the industry and my job—because it’s permanent, sustainable and it’s for future generations.”
Mike Tenoever of Century Slate in Durham, North Carolina, echoed that message when he talked about his company’s work on the North Carolina Legislative Building. “Our guys do this every single day, day in and day out,” he said. “It’s repetition, practice and love of restoration. Taking something so amazing and restoring it to the beauty it originally had—we all get a kick out of that.”
“You put in a hard day’s work and you’re proud to go home and know that what you’ve done is going to last not only your lifetime, but probably your kids’ lifetime, and maybe even your grandkids’ lifetime,” said Bill Burge of Charles F. Evans Roofing Company Inc. in Elmira, New York, as he detailed his company’s work on the Bradford County Courthouse.
Each of the roofing professionals I spoke with about these projects had the conscious goal of making sure the systems they installed might last another century. “We try to think of these slate and metal projects in terms of 100 years—that’s why we named our company Century Slate,” said Tenoever.
“This is the one thing that makes Charles F. Evans Company special to me: the fact that what we do from an architectural sheet metal standpoint, from a slate, copper, tile roof standpoint—these roofs will last 100, 150 years, and it is artwork,” Burge said.
“At the end of the day, why do we go to cities?” Hoad asked me. “We go to cities to look at their beautiful old buildings. We don’t generally go to look at their skyscrapers. It’s the old building that gets our minds and hearts working. When you go to a city and look at these old buildings intermingled with new buildings—that’s what gives a city life.”