Big plans for Darke Hall renovations

By Dale Johnson Posted: July 27, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Donald Luxton calls working on Darke Hall "a career highlight" for him.
Donald Luxton calls working on Darke Hall "a career highlight" for him. Photo: U of R Photography

There are no summer holidays at Darke Hall this year, where restoration work on the 88-year-old building is in full swing. The project is being led by Donald Luxton & Associates Inc., a Vancouver-based firm that specializes in cultural and heritage buildings.  

“This is a career highlight to work on these buildings. It pulls in many aspects of my interests, including heritage conservation. I also have roots in working with cultural facilities and performing arts facilities, so this is a perfect blend of those interests,” says Luxton.

“It’s an amazing set of buildings. There’s such a rich history in these buildings. To conceive a performance and cultural facility like this at the time, to have built it and to have kept it this long is astonishing. It’s no surprise to me that the community is so interested and engaged in this site,” he says.

The current restoration work is made possible thanks to $4 million in donations received for the College Avenue Campus Renewal Project.

The renovations are being done in stages, and the first order of business is restoring the outside, including replacing the roof and fixing the main entrance. Luxton says the exterior renovations will mean it will be quieter inside.

“There’s a lot of noise leakage in the building right now because the windows rattle and the doors don’t have much weather stripping. So noise leaks in, and one of the first things you want to do in terms of acoustic improvements is to isolate the interior from the outside.”
Later on, there will be improvements inside – including such things as accessibility, acoustics, lighting, seating, sound systems and washrooms.

A challenge of heritage restorations is making sure the buildings are up to current safety codes while maintaining their historical attributes.

“We think we can pretty much preserve what’s here. We don’t think when the rehabilitation is done that when you walk in it will look much different – but it will be better. There are many things that you will not see that will improve. The wiring, the mechanicals and the lighting will be improved, but in ways that are not that obvious.”

Luxton is glad the University of Regina is restoring and updating the College Avenue Campus, because he calls these buildings the “heart and soul” of the U of R.

“This is where it started – the old Regina College complex that was part of a much bigger plan for Wascana Park. It’s a very important part of the history of Regina. Today it’s really part of the University’s connection into the city, because this is where the University intersects with downtown. ”

And for Luxton, it’s a treat to be restoring Darke Hall.

“It’s been so much part of the community for so long, it’s great to bring it back to the community and make this a really useful, vibrant and dynamic facility again.”

Related stories:

University announces proposed new partnership to renew College Avenue Campus

A bright past and even brighter future for Darke Hall

Generosity of community allows University to begin Darke Hall upgrades