I hate it when government peon flacks get in the way of my work.

These assholes at Public Works Canada take the cake for stupidity.

The story as published is a but more tame,…….. but here’s what I originally wrote.

Public Works Canada gags internationally-renowned Canadian architect

IAN HARVEY

correspondent

Public Works Canada has forbidden Canadian architect Norman Glouberman from talking to the Daily Commercial News about a $42 million “crystal palace” being built as part of a $3 billion renovation and addition to the Houses of Parliament.

Glouberman says he’s disappointed but “his hands are tied. Ironically, the gag-order comes just as the government department gleefully reported to a parliamentary committee the massive multi-year project is not only on schedule but on budget.

It’s a sunny spin on the status but critics note back in 1995 renovations were projected to cost just $465 million. Prices have been escalating steadily and were just $1 billion in 2011-12. Now they are close to $3 billion and in 2011 Auditor General Sheila Fraser said the costs could go past $5 billion.

Glouberman, whose firm Arcop is jointly partnering with Montreal’s Fournier Gersovitz Moss Architects, is a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and has a global reputation. He’s been working on the Parliament buildings renovation since 1995 though the project was stalled ni 1998-99 until 2003-04 when he was called back to pick up where he’d left off.

PWGSC media told the Daily Commercial News that an interview unlikely and to submit questions in writing. There was no response to either the request or written questions despite several follow ups.

“My contract says we can’t speak to the media without PWGSC’s permission,” Glouberman said.

Pat Martin, NDP MP (Winnipeg Centre) and chair of the Government Operations and Estimates committee said the Auditor Generals have long complained “there are too many cooks in the kitchen.”

“We’re spoiling the soup because everybody is tampering with it,” said Martin, a former journeyman carpenter with PCL. “That’s why everything takes so long and costs so much to do on Parliament Hill.”

He has long argued for a separate agency other than Public Works to manage National Capital projects. “Having Public Works, Heritage, the National Capital Commission, everybody and their grandmother, involved in a simple renovation takes ten times as long and costs ten times as much.”

He was also critical of the design.

“Could we not do without the skylight in West Block, save a couple of million dollars, and have fewer cutbacks elsewhere?” he said in committee. “Could we not do without this problematic and very expensive crystal palace we’re building and just put a roof on it? Could we not just put some asphalt shingles on it and save some money?”

Public Works countered that treating everything down and starting from scratch would be cheaper, but decisions were made to preserve and restore the heritage structures.

While there are many components of the renovation including masonry repairs and restoration and structural shoring, one of the key elements Glouberman was initially keen to talk about was the $42 million glass and steel canopy slated for the centre block courtyard.

It will cover what is an open area and create a controlled environmental space to set up a temporary House of Commons while the traditional House of Commons is renovated. The canopy would be then configured into committee rooms and other offices when the traditional house renovations are finished sometimes around 2017.

The design is drawn from the Oxford Museum of Natural History also built in a Gothic style in the 1860s.  Oxford Museum commons features clusters of steel pipes rise up to a pedestal to support curved steel girders which form classic Gothic rib vaults which in turn support the glass.

Updated version is more modern but reflective of that school, with white triangular arches and white steel support girders as columns.

The Canadian homage to Oxford will also feature some “wood like products” Glouberman told the Ottawa Citizen in an interview when it was first unveiled. The space is almost exactly the same dimension as the existing House of Commons.

The design had to be revised and doubled the $24 million initially cost because the glass originally specified would not be suitable for the television cameras which cover house debates.

The entire renovation and restoration of the Parliament buildings is slated to be finished in 2020, making as Glouberman told the Ottawa Citizen would be “the work of a lifetime which will restore the building to its initial glory and perhaps more than that.”

PWGSC’s stonewalling around discussions demonstrates an acute sensitivity to the project which by default is front and centre to MPs everyday.

In 2009 there were allegations one of the winning bidders for work on the renovations had low balled a $9 million contract by $7 million with inside help.

Testifying at a committee hearing into the allegations, Glouberman said as the architect he would have had nothing to do with tendering.

However, his comments did provide some insight into the unique challenges of working on a 150-year-old structure which has already been renovated several time and had to withstand the harsh Ottawa climate.

“We’re dealing with a building built in the 1860s, bearing masonry that’s undergone a number of renovations. It has a lot of asbestos in it. With the present policy, we’re trying to bring it up to seismic regulations, seismic requirements,” he told the committee. “The combination of all of this, together with the requirements for a parliamentary building, means it’s very complex. The masonry is in extremely poor condition.”

Still, as Glouberman ttestifiedhe and the team have emotional bonded with the project.

“This is a project we’re very proud to be part of.” he said. “We’ve been working on it for 15 years (2010). I think we’ve developed a love of the building, definitely I think it’s worth the price that we have to pay for this.”