The Niagara Parks Power Station, formerly known as the Rankine Generating Station, is a historic hydroelectric plant located near the iconic Niagara Falls. It was originally constructed between 1901 and 1905 by the Canadian Niagara Power Company and played a significant role in the hydroelectric power industry.
The powerhouse spans nearly 600 feet in length and around 100 feet in width, and it houses 11 generators that collectively produce a substantial 100 million volt-amps of electricity. This Beaux-Arts structure remained operational until 2005 and was later acquired by the Niagara Parks Commission in 2019.
The recent conversion of the Niagara Parks Power Station into an immersive museum was led by Ontario-based firm +VG Architects. The transformation aimed to preserve the historical and cultural aspects of the building while creating an engaging and memorable experience for visitors.
The Niagara Parks Power Station’s recent decommissioning turned out to be a fortunate circumstance, as it left the plant in a structurally sound condition, allowing +VG Architects to approach the project with minimal disruption.
Instead of attempting to restore the building to a specific era, the focus was on preserving and maintaining the various layers of changes that had occurred in the building over the years.
The key priorities were stabilizing the structure, ensuring it was watertight, and preserving the original layout and relation to the surrounding landscape.
Much of the intervention centered on the installation of modern building infrastructure, including a new HVAC system, within a newly constructed basement. The generator hall, which houses the station’s turbines and equipment, was left largely intact and now features interpretive installations and interactive exhibitions.
To meet modern building codes, one-hour fire separations were carefully added between the existing floors and the museum’s new entrances and exits, along with new exit stairs and sprinklers.
Adapting the station’s inner forebay, where water used to flow into the spillways to power the turbines, presented another challenge for the project. To manage the forebay of water that ran the entire length of the building, a cofferdam was constructed between the power station and the Niagara River, and all the forebay’s penstocks were blocked with a new concrete wall.
However, a 100-foot-long section of the forebay was preserved as a visitor feature to demonstrate how water once flowed into the plant. The remaining outer forebay is open to the retail and dining area created within the station.