The Fairmont Empress Hotel has stood at the heart of Victoria’s inner harbour for over 100 years and is one of the most iconic buildings in Western Canada and holds a National Heritage Site of Canada designation. Following the purchase of the hotel by Bosa Properties in 2014, a two-year, large scale renovation project worth approximately $60 million was undertaken.
The extensive renovation and renewal project required the modernization of Victoria’s “castle on the coast” with comprehensive upgrades both inside and out. RJC was engaged by the Client due to our wide range of services and expertise in heritage restoration and modernization. The design prepared by HBA Consultants from San Francisco brought the hotel into the modern day with luxurious finishes and designs, while still paying homage to the historic and classic roots of the building.
The comprehensive heritage masonry restoration was completed to restore and showcase the original exterior brick and stone cladding that had been concealed and damaged by existing ivy growth. Working in conjunction with John G. Cooke & Associates Consulting Engineers, the masonry restoration took place over several years and included renewal of mortar joints, restoration of areas of failed brick and replacement of decorative stone with new custom-milled sections.
A revitalization of the entire interior of the hotel was completed during the project, including all guest suites and common areas. The Royal Suite and Gold Lounge areas in particular were completely overhauled and turned into lavish guest spaces, including a new roof-top veranda. RJC provided structural consultation on the reconfiguration and demolition of these areas, as well as extensive structural and building enclosure consulting for the veranda area. To minimize visual impact on the historic building, new glass guards were designed in conjunction with RJC’s structural glass group for the veranda and utilized 1 inch thick laminated, tempered, low-iron, super clear glass panels spanning 8 ft. The steel stanchions for the glass guards also form a part of a structural system to seismically restrain the existing masonry parapet wall, as well as to support the new building sign.
Structural consulting was provided for various other areas of work in the hotel, including design of new HVAC support structures for the kitchen renovation, steel stud wall and suspended ceiling design, moveable partition wall support structures and prompt design of shoring and new structural framing for an existing failed beam connection discovered during construction.
The project culminated with the renovations to the main entrance pavilion. The roof area was converted into a roof-top chef’s garden for the hotel’s kitchen. The lobby was made more spacious and open by removing sections of the existing mezzanine level and reconfiguring the staircase to create a new, grand entrance for guests. In order to realize the new design for the lobby, the existing lateral force-resisting system of the structure was reconfigured and reinforced to accommodate the changes. At the heart of the lobby is a custom crystal chandelier by Czech designers Lasvit measuring 20 feet across and consisting of 250,000 individual crystals. Outside, a new steel and concrete porte cochere was constructed to provide a welcoming arrival for the hotel guests and visitors.