From an architectural perspective, the Elora Mill project represented a true challenge. The objective was two-fold: restore existing buildings that have been woven into the fabric of the village's heritage, whilst developing new facilities reflective of today's market for luxury hotel, dining and wedding accommodations.
Expanding a 150-year-old heritage structure demanded a respect for the simplicity of the mill's form, as well as an understanding of the design opportunities presented by a building perched so strategically on the edge of a gorge. The project involved five buildings essentially: the original mill with a stable; the granary; a commercial warehouse structure; a mill cottage and, finally, a brick home in a state of disrepair.
The main mill is being restored and expanded out over the river and gorge to take full advantage of spectacular views. This addition, which will welcome diners and provide luxury accommodations, has been designed as a cantilevered glass box. Its transparency will allow the original walls of the mill to remain visible while creating an exciting juxtaposition of materials and form. The simplicity of its design will compliment, rather than compete with, the heritage structure.
The stable was a greater challenge. Sitting on a rock outcropping the gorge and offering serene views to the other side of the river, the goal was to convert the stable into a luxury spa, complete with a fitness area and pool. Though the original structure had to be removed, the rubble stone was salvaged for re-use in the new build. The result of this re-envisioning is a building that replicates the timeless simplicity and beauty of its heritage.
The granary building on Main Street has seen many uses over its history. While not designated, it was integral that elements of the exterior facade be retained, as they were strongly tied to the historical streetscape. Everything within its walls was removed to allow for the construction of a new banquet and wedding facility, which makes stunning use of both stone and glass.
The mill cottage -- a wonderful old stone house on the river's edge -- is being restored and converted into luxury rooms with an addition that will allow for more guests. This addition, though contemporary in its form, certainly utilizes materials that pay homage to the past. The cottage and the mill form the terminus of a new glass bridge being built across the river. This modern design element allows for a sense of transparency while crossing the river and marks a bold new development for the entire site. Offering not only a dramatic view of the surroundings, the bridge will also serve to connect one side of the Elora Mill project to the other.
The brick home has been restored and will be re-purposed to house ancillary facilities as well as another suite. The building's interior will also continue the utilize glass, stone and exposed timber in a careful balance of the old and new.
The overall design vision for Elora Mill was to create a complex of buildings that are cohesive in their character, that respect the heritage of a historical site and that reflect the visual impact of such a stunning and scenic area. The inclusion of glass and steel as contemporary design elements announces a bold new beginning for the development. The simplicity of form in the buildings compliment the heritage qualities of the site. Creating a sense that the structures had always been part of the area by channelling the bold and timeless will ensure the project's relevance for years to come.
William R. Hicks
B.E.S., B.Arch., MRAIC. OAA