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Historic University of Saskatchewan room gets new ‘old’ seats – Saskatoon

Watch above: new, old chairs in the University of Saskatchewan ‘airplane room’ are costly

SASKATOON – There’s a common theme around the University of Saskatchewan campus, inside and out.

Its new buildings look like they’ve been there since the university was founded in 1907, while the old structures continue to be refurbished.

The iconic Lecture Theatre on campus is getting a new, but old, look and it’s coming with a hefty price tag at a time when money is said to be tight.

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Paper airplanes are still stuck to the ceiling but the seats, with decades of carvings and gum stuck to the bottoms, are being renovated in the historic ‘airplane room’.

“We try to make things last as long as they can, nothing lasts forever and in the case of these things, they’re what 90 years old and they were just breaking so often that you couldn’t keep up with them,” said Andrew Wallace, associate planning director at the university.

The new seats in Lecture Theatre 271 in the Thorvaldson Building are exact replicas, baring the stenciled numbers and made of maple and birch.

“There are regulatory restrictions around cutting and transporting elm now because of Dutch elm disease,” said Wallace.

“So we had to find a wood that would replicate characteristics of elm both from the durability perspective as well as the grain, appearance and we achieved that,” said Don Hipperson, president of Hy-Grade Millwork.

There are roughly 300 seats in the airplane room and about 250 have been replaced. The rest are expected to be installed in the near future.

The university prides itself on maintaining its founding ‘heritage’ look. Its grey stone has made it one of the most recognizable campuses in the country.

But at a time when the university is facing a self-projected financial deficit, tuition increases and jobs cut, the replacement project is costing $140,000. This is about 20 per cent more than new pre-manufactured ones.

“We have to do this to guard our heritage, we can’t say to Walter Murray if he were here today, well I’m sorry that building fell down because we didn’t repair it; so sure it costs more but it’s an investment to make sure our campus stays nice,” said Dr. Gordon Barnhart, interim president at the U of S.

Carpenters carefully disassembled the old chairs, re-using the original metal brackets and pedestals. When all is said and done, the airplane room will look like it did when the building was first opened in 1924.

The replacement of the chairs came from the capital renewal fund, granted annually for maintenance.

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