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Exploring Edmonton: Dent/Pharm Construction Site

If you are looking for a highly illegal, yet rewarding visit, I highly recommend exploring the dent/pharm building

Editor’s Note (12/18/2019, 4:15 p.m.): This article is intended to be a satirical version of The Gateway’s ongoing column “Exploring Edmonton.” For obvious safety reasons, The Gateway does not endorse the breaking-into of any active construction site, and readers should not read this article as an endorsement of such activities.

What: Dentistry Pharmacy Building Construction Site Where: University of Alberta North Campus Bus Loop Price: $149 million dollars

The most iconic building on campus is getting a facelift.

But while it is in its in-between state of half torn down and half still standing, the Dentistry Pharmacy Building remains quite the site to visit.

I recently visited the site and was taken aback by its history, character, and numerous building code violations. While there, I was struck by how beautiful and contemplative the entire experience of visiting the demolition was.

The building first opened in 1921 and it was heralded as the “pride of campus.” Walking through the active construction site really gives you a sense of exactly why the building has so much charm and beauty.

Before, when the building was still operational, you only saw what they wanted you to see. Now you can enjoy seeing the intricate asbestos walls, porous windows that seep the heat out and contribute to killing our atmosphere, not-to-code electrical systems, ancient heating system, and quaint lead pipes — truly all remnants of a bygone era. Additionally, the exposed walls showcase the stories the joists, beams, and braces have to tell.

For the last five years the building remained vacant. Now it is bustling with activity. It is easy to get lost in the large amount of construction workers, demolition crews, and trucks bound for the dump.

As I walked through the site I was reminded about the HGTV show my mother would always watch where people try to buy old homes and then flip them for a profit. I wondered if that was the strategy the U of A was employing? Another thought that came to mind was since the United Conservative Party of Alberta cut the infrastructure maintenance grant funding, I pondered about if this would be the last construction project I would live to see happen at the U of A?

I also wondered how the building got to be where it was? My heart yearned to find out why the maintenance of this gorgeous piece of history — from its towering cupola, memorable brickwork, and grand staircase —was deferred so long; to the point it had to be almost levelled to the ground.

If you are looking for a highly illegal, yet rewarding visit, I highly recommend exploring the dent/pharm building. Just make sure to watch out for the demolished sections and the bulldozer.

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