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Building the Future of Vic U | Moving Out of Birge-Carnegie

Apr. 18, 2024
Vic students move last painting from Birge Carnegie on April 17 2024

Considerable efforts are underway to preserve the features and design of Birge-Carnegie, including the meticulous conservation of its archival materials and artwork, which will be relocated to a secure offsite storage facility. (Photo by Minh Truong)

The last staff and faculty still working in Birge-Carnegie are packing boxes and preparing to move out so the building can undergo a major revitalization. 

Preparations for the renovations begin in May—removing furniture, seeing what’s under floors and behind walls, testing the stone walls and windows for air tightness—with substantial completion expected by the summer of 2026.  

Final classes have been held in Classroom B-20. Faculty and staff—Communications, Library and IT—will relocate while the work is taking place. For safety reasons, only contractors and project staff can access the building until the work is finished.  

Birge-Carnegie served as the Victoria College library from 1910 until the E.J. Pratt Library was completed in 1961. Since then, the building has been underutilized, with a large part of the main floor and the basement used as storage for archival material belonging to the United Church of Canada and Victoria University. 

“This exciting project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform a century-old Gothic gem into a vibrant hub on Vic’s beautiful campus,” says Bursar Ken Chan. “This revival embodies the spirit of renewal and community renaissance.” 

The renovations will add more study and gathering spaces for students, a new classroom and offices that will better meet the University’s operational needs. Birge-Carnegie will also be connected to Emmanuel College, which will create new opportunities for collaboration and make best use of both buildings. 

One of the key features in the renovated building will be what Chan calls “the most modern classroom to be built on Victoria’s campus for a long time.”  

The new classroom will have furniture that can be rearranged to accommodate current teaching and learning styles, as well as enhanced technologies. Elsewhere in the building, students will find open workstations and offices, small meeting rooms and booths for videoconferencing calls. 

Emphasis is also being placed on retaining the original architectural features and design of Birge-Carnegie, a heritage-listed building. “A signature project will be bringing the iconic Reading Room back to life with its majestic stained-glass windows, stone carvings and original wooden floors and tables,” Chan says. 

Another goal of the renovations is to improve accessibility, a significant issue in Birge-Carnegie. An elevator will be installed, connecting all three floors, and the new connection between Birge-Carnegie and Emmanuel College will be accessible. The skylight over the main lobby will be enhanced to inject more natural light into the building. 

Archival materials and art from Birge-Carnegie and the Vic Chapel are being moved to offsite storage facilities. Archival material can be retrieved during construction.  

The Communications team will be working from home starting April 29 until it moves into the space vacated by the Registrar’s Office in Northrop Frye in  August. Faculty and library staff will also be working out of Northrop Frye, and IT will be split between Northop Frye and the E.J. Pratt Library. 

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