Architects recognized for window replacement at historical Prince Albert Court of King’s Bench

(From left to right) City of Prince Albert Director of Planning and Development Services Craig Guidiner presents the Municipal Heritage Award to Justin Wotherspoon of SPEW Architecture and Malcolm Hoehn of the Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement on Oct. 11, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

A year-long project to replace three stories of windows at Prince Albert’s Court of King’s Bench is receiving municipal recognition.

The City of Prince Albert presented SEPW Architecture and the provincial government, which owns the property, with its 2022 Municipal Heritage Award on Wednesday. The project was recognized under the rehabilitation category for efforts to restore the windows while maintaining the building’s historical significance.

Justin Wotherspoon, the company’s principal architect, said preserving the court’s heritage was important.

“Behind the scenes, although this just appeared to be a window replacement, there was a dedicated group of individuals that were really working hard to finding technical solutions to replacing windows in an old building, but then we had to take it beyond that to look at sensitive and appropriate solutions to support the character-defining elements,” he said.

For example, Wotherspoon said, the team conducted research into the building’s original windows, since the the windows they were replacing were not original.

They found that white oak would best match the windows from when the court house was first built in 1927.

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of research,” said Wotherspoon. 

“We’d just like to thank you for recongizing that effort here today.”

Court of King’s Bench in Prince Albert brings back memories for Chief Justice of Saskatchewan Martel Popescul.

“It was here, over 43 years ago, that I conducted my first cases in this very court house. My first jury trial was here; my first chambers appearance was here, and my first pre-trial conference was held in this extraordinary structure. As a lawyer, I spent a lot of time at and conducted many trials in this court house,” he said.

Martel Popescul, Court of Kings Bench Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, speaks at the Prince Albert courthouse on Oct. 11, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

During those many years, Popescul said the building made an impression on him. He continues to be amazed at how the original architect, Maurice Sharon, was able to “convey an idea, a feeling, a presence, the physical embodiment of justice and the rule of law.”

“It’s equally amazing to me how today’s architects, such as those at SEPW Architecture, can maintain the original historic vision, the look and feel of a building that’s almost a century old, while modernizing and improving it to reflect today’s standards and expectations,” said Popescul.

The renovations cost about $700,000. The project began in March 2020 and was complete by July 2021.

According to Craig Guidinger, the city’s director of planning and development services, the architects removed the old single hung windows with triple glazed ones, improving the energy efficiency and appearance of the building.

They also replaced an aluminum storm door and the arched window at the main entrance to match the rest of the new windows. The large rose window, which is on the south side, also needed putty and caulking repairs.

This is the first project heritage award given out since 2016, said Guidinger. The city re-worked its policy consideration for the award in 2018 and 2019 before COVID-19 put a pause to it.

Guidinger said the city will put out a call for 2023 nominations in January.