St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver, Reopens

Just a decade shy of its forthcoming centennial, the monumental church has been reinvigorated with new life following two years of renovation by Ryder, in collaboration with RJC Engineers

The renewal of this significant civic and architectural landmark celebrates the church’s historic features while promising longevity for the structure through key improvements to envelope performance, seismic resiliency, occupant safety and accessibility.

Originally built in 1927, St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church boasts a Gothic revival style using sturdy, locally sourced materials such as Nelson Island granite and Haddington Island stone by brothers and architects Twizell & Twizell.  While built with rigour, the historic stone clad concrete structure had suffered years of natural deterioration and resulted in leaking roofs, requiring intermittent repairs.  The decline of the once elegant, plastered church interior initiated a broader investigation of opportunities for preservation.

The longstanding relationship between RJC, one of North America’s leading engineering firms, and St Andrew’s-Wesley allowed the project team to envision a holistic approach for a successful restoration.


Ryder leveraged its Building Information Modelling (BIM) expertise to facilitate an integrative design and construction process.

Adam James, principal at Ryder, describes the process as “using a 21st Century skill set to analyze and facilitate remediation and upgrades that retain the building’s heritage value for the next hundred years.”

Analog drawings and 3D digital scans created a detailed model of the existing conditions, while digital excavation helped visualize the model as layers to inform significant design decisions.

Michael MacLean, project lead and associate at RJC, explains, “The entire team understood the importance of maintaining the building’s historic character while providing a revitalized structure that meets the church’s vision for a modern day gathering place.”

The project’s comprehensive scope involved seismic retrofitting and substantial architectural, heritage, structural, building enclosure as well as electrical, mechanical, code and acoustical upgrades.

Ryder and RJC considered the church’s history at the heart of the restoration process, respecting its character and charm, while offering amenities of a revitalized modern day building.  The locally quarried granite and stone façades were repaired and fortified on the exterior, and the addition of a new copper roof was installed to resolve recurring leaks.  Structural work on the interior involved removing plaster from the walls and vaults – a meticulous casting process allowed the seamless replacement of surfaces and ornamental details.  Other implementations include accessibility and mobility aids such as ramps and upgrades to audio and visual systems.

Executive director of operations at St Andrew’s-Wesley, Diane Mitchell, credits the team led by Ryder and RJC with “navigating the complexity of the project and delivering a beautiful result that the church can be immensely proud of.”

As the first large scale renewal in its history, the building showcases a seamless integration of old and new, inspiring a new architectural narrative as it continues to invite local congregants and international visitors to come together, worship and experience the beauty of its exquisite sanctuary.

St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church renewal is the recipient of a 2021 North American Copper in Architecture Award and 2021 BC Heritage Award in Conservation.

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