[Updated March 7, 2023]
In November 2020, MOA began the planning to rebuild its iconic Great Hall in order to upgrade the resiliency of the Museum and protect its irreplaceable collection in the event of a major earthquake. When the project is complete the Great Hall architecture will look like it does now, along with such improvements as new lighting and carpeting. The seismic upgrade project also presents an important opportunity for staff and First Nations community members to work together to revitalize the Great Hall displays and interpretation. As well, MOA is currently under construction for other building upgrades, such as updates to its skylights, lighting, roofing, window coverings and fire protection. Together, these improvements will better showcase and protect the collection. MOA’s landscape will also be fully remediated once construction is complete.
MOA has important heritage value for UBC. The Great Hall seismic upgrades therefore involve a sensitive approach, following conservation principles that address both the heritage values and character-defining elements of the site and the building. Feedback from the Arthur Erickson Foundation has informed the architectural and construction approach to the project, ensuring the Great Hall will retain the appearance of the original space to preserve its architectural character and heritage values. Likewise, the Musqueam Indian Band has participated in planning meetings.
The cutting-edge design/engineering solution for the Great Hall seismic upgrades is to utilize base isolators under the suspended main floor slab to absorb the impact of seismic activity, separating the building from the ground and from the adjoining museum structures.
In preparation for the seismic upgrades to the Great Hall, all of the massive wooden carvings that reside in the Great Hall have been lowered and relocated elsewhere in the Museum ahead of the construction. The careful lowering of the poles and figures was just the beginning of the work MOA conservators, curators, and community and family groups are undertaking. MOA is working with Indigenous knowledge holders to prepare the reinstallation and reinterpretation of these significant works in the Great Hall in culturally appropriate ways, once the seismic upgrades are complete. The safety and protection of these irreplaceable Indigenous objects is of the highest priority to MOA’s team, who will ensure they are well cared for before and during construction. Many of the poles have been placed in the O’Brian Gallery adjacent to the Great Hall, where visitors have the rare opportunity to see the poles as they rest during the construction.
The seismic upgrades officially started in December 2021, and in January 2022 the Great Hall was taken down. Since then, progress has been underway and on track to rebuild the Great Hall as designed by Arthur Erickson in the mid-1970s, but now with cutting-edge 21st century base isolation technology.
From January 16, 2023 until late 2023, MOA will be temporarily closed to accelerate the completion of the seismic upgrades to the Great Hall and conduct other building improvements. The innovative seismic project has been under way since 2021 to ensure that visitors and the Indigenous treasures housed in this space will be protected for the future.
Though the building will be closed, MOA will continue to facilitate access for Indigenous communities to the collections. The museum will also offer on-site behind-the-scenes tours, special virtual events, digital school programs, and other exciting initiatives for the public to enjoy throughout the year. Likewise, the museum’s teaching, research and exhibition work will continue, in preparation to welcome visitors back in late 2023 with a revitalized museum experience.
Live stream of construction site:
Project photo album (click image to open album):
4D animated simulation of construction process:
360° virtual tour of the Great Hall in its original state:
January 16, 2023 – Late 2023: MOA will temporarily close to the public to accelerate the completion of the Great Hall seismic upgrades and other building improvements.
Late 2023: The Great Hall seismic upgrades will be complete and the Museum will reopen to the public.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the scope of the project?
This Fall 2020, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) began preparations for a rebuild of its Great Hall to upgrade the seismic resiliency of the space and protect its irreplaceable collection in the event of a major earthquake. As part of a larger renewal project, the Museum is also currently receiving other building improvements, such as updates to its skylights, lighting, roofing, window coverings and fire protection.
Why is this project happening?
As part of ongoing seismic planning, UBC conducted a comprehensive evaluation of seismic risk across all campus buildings to assess, plan, and prioritize upgrades to buildings or areas within the buildings that have the highest seismic risk. MOA’s Great Hall was determined to have a high level of seismic risk and therefore was prioritized for upgrade.
During the project planning process, it was determined that it would not be feasible to achieve improved seismic performance to the Great Hall while retaining the existing structural elements. A complete rebuild of the Great Hall was determined as the best approach to upgrading the resiliency of the space without compromising its architectural integrity.
UBC and MOA acknowledge that the Museum is built on the traditional, ancestral and unceded land of the Musqueam people. Musqueam Indian Band has participated in the planning process.
What is the project timeline?
In Fall 2020, MOA underwent the delicate, complex process of lowering and moving the totem poles from the Great Hall and into an adjacent gallery, in preparation for seismic upgrades. In December 2021, a construction hoarding wall was erected to close the Great Hall from the rest of the Museum. In January 2022, the Great Hall structure was taken down to rebuild it with base isolation technology in place. Starting on January 16, 2023, the whole Museum will temporarily close to accelerate the completion of the complex construction project. The Great Hall will be completed and Museum will reopen to the public in late 2023.
What’s happening to the collection in the Great Hall during construction?
All objects from the Great Hall, including more than 20 massive carvings, will be temporarily located elsewhere in the Museum in time for construction. Some of the poles have already been lowered and are available to the public to see. This unique collection will be reinstalled into the Great Hall once construction is complete.
MOA is liaising with Indigenous communities and families whose cultural objects are being moved from the Great Hall. They will continue to provide input into protocols around moving and re-installing these works into the Great Hall post-construction. MOA’s team will ensure the irreplaceable Indigenous objects will be well cared for before and during construction.
Is the Museum going to be closed during the whole construction process?
From January 16, 2023 until late 2023, the whole Museum will temporarily close in order to accelerate the completion of the project. Up until this point, the Museum and its gallery spaces have remained open to the public. However, this coming year we will have to temporarily close to accommodate this complex construction project, and then re-install the massive carvings in the Great Hall, and complete new exhibitions and displays.
The last day MOA will be open to the public will be Sunday, January 15, 2023, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Museum in late 2023.
What will the Great Hall look like after the project is complete?
MOA is considered to have important heritage value for UBC. The rebuild of the Great Hall involves a sensitive approach that will follow conservation principles that address both the heritage values and character-defining elements of the site and the building. Feedback from Arthur Erickson Foundation has shaped the architectural and construction approach to the project. The new rebuild for the Great Hall will retain the appearance of the original space to preserve its architectural character and heritage values. When the project is complete the building will look like it does now with some improvements, including new lighting and carpeting.
MOA will also receive some other building improvements, such as updates to its skylights, lighting, roofing, window coverings and fire protection – some of this work has been underway for the past year. Together, these improvements will better showcase and protect the collection. MOA’s landscape will also be fully remediated once construction is complete.
Was there public consultation about the project?
As part of public consultation for this project, a virtual open house was held on June 29, 2020. It was a drop-in style event hosted on Zoom. UBC Campus + Community Planning staff, project design representatives and MOA staff were available to answer questions or respond to comments. The public comment period for this project closed on July 7, 2020. Comments received were then considered as part of the development permit approval process.
The Great Hall Renewal is a joint project of UBC Campus + Community Planning, UBC Infrastructure Development and the Museum of Anthropology.
Please visit the UBC Campus + Community Planning website for project details, documents and technical information, including:
- • Project Overview
- • Public Consultation
- • Project Considerations
- • Architectural Plans
- • Landscape Plans
- • Tree Protection Plan
- • Frequently Asked Questions
- • Project Timeline
Further project updates will also be available on the UBC Infrastructure Development website.
Development Permit: DP19025
Status: In construction
Project Manager: UBC Project Service — Aletha Utimati
Architect: Nick Milkovich Architects Inc.
Construction Manager: Heatherbrae Builders Co Ltd.
Structural Engineer: Equilibrium