Demolition began Tuesday morning for a historic but problem-plagued building that has sat on Alberta's legislature grounds for 70 years.
The Legislature Annex was built in 1951 and started as an Alberta Government Telephones building. The 12-storey building, with its signature teal glass facade, housed provincial civil servants until late last year.
When he announced the building's demolition in September 2020, Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said the annex had fallen into such disrepair that it would cost $29 million — half the building's value — to renovate it.
"The condition deteriorated because it was not well kept," Panda said Tuesday morning, moments before a giant mechanical construction claw began tearing into the building.
"So unfortunately we had to make the decision to bring it down," he said.
He added that many viewed the building as an eyesore.
For the near future, the government wants to maintain the site as a green space, Panda said.
The demolition and remediation work is expected to cost $11 million, said a government spokesperson.
The annex was the city's first building to have a "curtain wall" style, making it an Edmonton architectural landmark.
"It used the technology that basically hung the exterior skin, or face, of the building like a curtain off the structure from the top down," architect Shafraaz Kaba said. "So this was a new structural and building envelope innovation that had never, ever been utilized here."
Kaba said the annex was also one of the first local buildings to use air conditioning, a necessity since the curtain wall didn't have windows that opened.
"So for its time and for its place, it was one of the most innovative buildings in the country," he said.
'Piece of our architectural history'
But over time, the annex was also plagued by infrastructural issues including water leaks, faulty plumbing, asbestos insulation, cracked windows, and inconsistent heating.
Panda said the demolition team found more asbestos, mould, and other hazardous materials as they started their work. That pushed back the anticipated completion of the project.
It won't take long to knock down the building, Panda said, but the separation and cleanup of those hazardous materials might take five or six weeks.
Kaba, whose company specializes in making buildings more energy-efficient, said he is "super sad" to see the annex go.
"It is sort of a piece of our architectural history that was a really good counterpoint to the legislature itself," he said. "It was this very stark, bold, modern monument on the legislature grounds."