Cambridge Old Post Office

Constructed in 1886, the Old Post Office in Cambridge (formerly Galt) overlooked the Grand River and was used as the customs house and for government work in the small Ontario community. Over the course of the ensuing century, the unique building transitioned from a vital structure to one neglected and suffering from vandalism and unsympathetic interventions. The Government recognized its architectural and historical legacy and designated the building as a National Historic Site in 1983.

The City of Cambridge, too, recognized the potential of the site and purchased the vacant structure in 2012 with the intention of bringing back to life one of the City’s heritage and architectural treasures. With the engagement of the design team headed by the prime consultant Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley Architects Inc. (RDHA), with Stevens Burgess Architects Ltd. (SBA) in the role of heritage architect, the Old Post office was adapted and expanded into the Idea Exchange, an arm of the Cambridge Public Library, focused on a progressive library experience for the public.

The team was tasked with the challenge to rehabilitate the Old Post Office in conjunction with the design of a new transparent pavilion that would double the post office’s floor area while addressing the requirements for a state of the art fully digital library. SBA worked hand-in-hand with both the City and RDHA from the initial schematic design to completed construction to ensure the highest quality of heritage restoration was achieved.

Such a redesign and expansion was no easy feat. The Post Office’s late 19th century solid masonry structure was located within feet of the central transportation route on Water Street. The site also abutted neighbouring properties immediately to the North and South and was perched up against the river wall along the Grand River. The design, including much of the addition that cantilevered twenty feet over the water, accommodated challenging programming needs, fire and life safety requirements, barrier free accessibility, mechanical, electrical and engineering services, and LEED Gold certification in keeping with the Conservation Master Plan and the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

The creatively reconceived Old Post Office and Idea Exchange has blended the old and the new to revitalize the building to be, once again, a distinguished place of community and a hallmark of innovation.

2016 Architectural Review MIPIM Future Project Awards Commendation.
Cambridge Old Post Office and Idea Exchange

2018 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.
Presented to RDH Architects for the Cambridge Old Post Office and Idea Exchange

Architecture MasterPrize international award of excellence.
Presented to RDH Architects for the Cambridge Old Post Office and Idea Exchange