That’s the only word I can clutch at to describe the news that broke last week. Alberta Infrastructure has put out a Request for Proposals to demolish the beautiful historically and architecturally important Royal Alberta Museum building and replace it with a park:
The purpose of this project is to complete a comprehensive demolition/deconstruction assessment of the building and site and develop schematic design to redevelop the site into an open green space
For those unfamiliar with the Museum site in Edmonton’s Glenora neighbourhood, the Museum grounds are already a park. The centrepiece of this green space is the venerable Government House, home to a marvellous publicly-owned but difficult-to-view art collection. The site is a popular location for wedding photos and the Museum building has long been a terrific hall for wedding receptions. The Museum building has a well appointed theatre, a commercial kitchen with restaurant space, offices, exhibition space that could be repurposed easily in a multitude of ways, and vast areas of back room and basement which have always been closed to the public and surely offer tantalizing potential.
The people of Glenora seem to want the building preserved and repurposed. Margaret Robinson of the Old Glenora Conservation Association is quoted by Global News as saying:
We want to see the [museum] remain intact. It’s a very fine, high-quality building. It would be a very bad thing to see it demolished
But no. Preservation is not a part of Alberta Infrastructure’s Request for Proposals. The only question is the design of space once the building is removed.
For far too long in Edmonton and Alberta the default response to buildings older than a quarter century has been neglect followed by demolition.
Surely the Minister, Brian Mason, and Premier Rachel Notley, Edmontonians both, will step in to order the broadening of the Request for Proposals to include the possibility, cost, and benefits of preserving and repurposing a gem of Alberta architecture and history. Not at least investigating that possibility would be — obviously — incomprehensible.
Update, March 9th, 2026: A petition to save the RAM started by June Acorn is picking up steam. Take a look and consider signing.
Update, March 13th, 2016: Minister of Infrastructure Brian Mason tonight in a comment on this post offered reassurances that repurposing the Royal Alberta Museum building is not off the table. Because I so often advise “Don’t read the comments!”, I’ll paste Mr. Mason’s comment right here:
No decision has been made on the future of the former museum building, nor will it for some time. It will take nearly two years to organize the exhibits, including those in storage, and move them to the new museum. We are simply gathering the information needed to evaluate our options. Re-purposing the building is definitely an option. We will discuss with the community before making any decision.
Mr. Mason’s comment on my little bloggy thing is reassuring (and flattering to me!) but I have to suggest that more reassuring would be a parallel Request for Proposals to repurpose the RAM. I hope such is forthcoming. Soon.