Centennial honours for museum architect

For Nanaimo architect Les Barley, seeing the building he designed for Canada's Centennial spared from the wrecking ball and continuing life as a museum is one of the best birthday presents he could get.

Turning 100 usually means getting some special presents.

For Nanaimo architect Les Barley, seeing the building he designed for Canada’s Centennial spared from the wrecking ball and continuing life as a museum is one of the best gifts he could get.

Barley, who turns 100 Monday (Sept. 19), received a framed certificate making him a full-fledged honorary member of the Vancouver Island Military Museum from Roger Bird, museum president, and Brian McFadden, museum vice president, who also presented him with a museum golf shirt.

The presentation was made Wednesday in front of the old Nanaimo District Museum building in Piper Park. Barley was the original architect of the building, the fate of which has been uncertain until it was announce in August that it will become the new home to the Vancouver Island Military Museum.

Barley talked about little-known features built in to the structure that were never finished because of budget constraints, such as a room built to create a camera obscura in the museum’s attic. Ceiling panelling covers the room.

“Nobody knows it’s there,” Barley said. “The lens was even cast for the camera.”

He said the structure’s octagonal shape was chosen to reflect the shape of the Nanaimo Bastion.

“It would cost a lot to tear it down,” Barley said. “It’s built on rock out of reinforced concrete.”

Barley also designed or helped design several other notable Nanaimo buildings, such as Nanaimo District Secondary School and the Bowen Park Complex.