Historic Grain Elevators Could Become Community Spaces

grain elevatorsAli Piwowar, who recently earned an architecture degree from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, would like to see the historic grain elevators that dot Saskatchewan’s landscape converted for public use. She detailed her ideas in her thesis.

Saskatchewan used to have over 3,000 grain elevators. Only 420 are left in the province. Piwowar is concerned that in 20 years they might all be gone. She would like to see them remodeled and used instead of demolished.

Piwowar has been fascinated by grain elevators since she was 10 and her family moved from Ontario, which has no grain elevators, to Regina. She says people have relationships with grain elevators and they ground communities.

Piwowar believes that even though many grain elevators are no longer needed for agriculture, their solid construction means they could be used for other purposes, such as offices, libraries, boutique hotels, or community centers. She says conversions would not be very expensive since most of the structure already exists. She believes converted grain elevators could form the heart of a community and draw in tourists.

Her thesis focused on Indian Head, which used to have more wooden elevators than any other town in North America, but her ideas could be applied to any other community. Indian Head still has two wooden crib grain elevators owned by Paterson Grain that are being used as grain storage bins.

Piwowar believes they could be used for completely different purposes, such as a tourist information center, an events venue, a glass elevator, guest suites, a coffee shop, and a bakery. A new building envelope consisting of a vapor barrier and insulation would be necessary. She also proposes creating a row of elevators on Canadian Pacific’s old Intermodal land that is owned by the city of Regina.


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