The Vancouver Heritage Foundation

Bringing down the house.

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Vancouver is not a place where the architecture of the city’s houses and buildings tells a particularly distinct story about its past. Nevertheless, it has its share of older homes, commercial buildings and institutional structures. Many of these buildings have earned a premium value due to the history and folklore of the community deeply ingrained in their design.

Displaying these elegant and richly crafted architectural details often means peeling back decades of paint and tacked-on alterations, restoring the authentic elements that are the obvious cues about our past and that evoke the not-so-obvious stories that reside in these coveted heritage buildings. The restoration of a heritage home can seem like a daunting undertaking. It requires finding those skilled in vanishing trades, committing considerable financial resources and enduring months if not years of painstaking, detailed work.

A new series of courses focusing on building conservation makes the challenge much less daunting. It provides students with hands-on knowledge about the many steps involved in a heritage renovation, starting right at the beginning of the process. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation has established Old School, a unique educational series open to the public that offers certification, learning credits and invaluable content specific to Vancouver buildings. Students acquire both the theoretical and technical tools to consider how heritage conservation can help build more sustainable communities.

The Old School courses use local case studies, illustrated on-site lectures, walking tours and workshops in actual heritage buildings to provide homeowners, contractors, realtors, architects, engineers and planners with the practical knowledge and skills to tackle every stage of conservation.

The program is a series of concise individual courses, including a one-day core overview course and three key elective courses. With topics covering project planning and managing, building exteriors and building interiors, elective courses teach students everything from rehabilitating windows to stripping painted surfaces and understanding historic colours.

All of the courses are taught by well known local heritage conservation practitioners in our community—people who have actually saved some of the real historic gems in this area. They take students into the field with technical demonstrations and visual observations of old buildings to help dispel myths and create a wider understanding of the work involved in heritage conservation.

Photo: Craig David Long.

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December 1, 2008