They don’t make them like they used to. Probably because they can’t afford to. Just refurbishing Ottawa’s Wellington Building, opened in 1927 as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, cost $425 million and took seven years.
That’s a lot of money; my guess is about $424 million than it cost to build it in the first place. It hardly needs to be said that the restoration was a government project. The building is on the list of national historic places, and is now used as office space and meeting rooms for Members of Parliament. With eh original construction starting in 1925, it took just two years to complete the building. The renovations started in 2010 and have been just completed. Of course, back in 1925 they didn’t have to worry about wiring every room for internet access. They probably weren’t too worried about “green” construction methods and heritage designations either.
This past Thursday and Friday they held an open house for Parliamentary employees to let us see the results. I wasn’t going to go, then decided at the last minute to check it out. My first thought had been that I would see the place eventually. There are many meeting rooms and it is inevitable I’ll wind up there at some point. It wasn’t as if my office was going to be moved there, so there was no need to go and explore.
I won’t comment on the money spent. Given that the restoration of the entire Parliamentary precinct is a multi-billion dollar affair, I guess $425 million for one building is appropriate. Yes it would have been cheaper to give the land back to the Algonquin Nation, who claim it and build elsewhere, but I guess there is a sentimental attachment to the Parliament Buildings that transcends mere dollars and sense.
Anyway, what I wanted to highlight is the entrance. I had been in the Wellington Building many times before it was closed for renovations and never noticed the mosaic in the entryway. Maybe that was because I never looked up. (True) Maybe it was I was preoccupied with getting through security. (Also true.) Maybe it was because the ceiling was dark and unlit and the mosaic dirty with age. (I’m told this is true – since I didn’t look up I can’t attest to that of my own knowledge.)
Whatever the reason, the mosaic has been restored and lit and is one of the highlights of the building. Almost a million pieces of tile, extolling the virtues of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as a benevolent protector of its policy holders.
If you want pictures of offices or committee rooms for the library you’ll have to check the news coverage. I was not thinking of this space as I wandered around that one. But I did whip out my phone and take some pictures of the mosaic as I left. I hadn’t seen it at the beginning of the tour as I had gone in a different entrance.
I was impressed – I hope you are too.