A principal component of the project is the reinstatement of a central entrance at the eastern portico, a key element of the original design. Once located behind a free-standing colonnade, this main entrance helped complete the historical axis that terminates in front of the Palm House. The new projecting entry bay with double doors will offer barrier-free entry to the conservatory, accommodate access for heavy machinery for maintenance, and create a more prominent entrance. It will ultimately reinforce the connection between the building and its front plaza. The doorway takes cues from the original design, echoing historical features like the transoms located above the sandstone-finished base of the building. This is being done in collaboration with heritage architects AREA, who are leading the refurbishment of building elements like finials, the entablature, and the sandstone façade.
To create a better performing enclosure, the overhead glazing of all three domes will be replaced with laminated glass panels. The restoration of the framing will ensure the historic appearance is kept. Coupled with improvements to mechanical and electrical systems, the retrofits will result in better indoor air quality, energy efficient operations and more stable indoor temperatures. A new, wider catwalk is also to be installed, once again helping improve access to the upper reaches of the dome for maintenance.
The project is a collaborative undertaking between the City’s PFR department and Zeidler Architecture along with AREA heritage architects, with RJC and HIDI supporting engineering efforts. Part of a broader vision led by the city and the Friends of Allan Gardens, the restoration and functional upgrade of the Palm House will make Allan Gardens more accessible and enjoyable, while making sure that the distinct architectural language of the site is preserved for generations to come. The conservatory’s greenhouses will remain open during the renovation, with the Palm House’s plant collection temporarily moved offsite.
Feature image and catwalk detail by AREA Architects. Archival images courtesy of the City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department.