Hamilton, Ontario

Phoenix Pub & Restaurant

After its re-opening in an eclectic new location in 2012, the Phoenix Pub & Restaurant and Graduate Student Offices located in the historic refectory, quickly became an integral part of student and community life on the McMaster University Campus.

When the Graduate Student Association, GSA, learned it must find a new home for its student-run pub and offices, we worked with the association to develop a plan that would best meet its requirements. Our solution, the Refectory Building. It was a historically designated Collegiate Gothic style brick and stone structure in the heart of the campus. The beautiful vaulted ceilings are one of its most distinctive features.

As a result, our design uses this historic backdrop as the basis for a modern and comfortable pub environment.  The new restaurant has a seating capacity of 180 and is fully accessible. We designed the space for the student body. But soon, the broader community discovered its appeal.

Upstairs, we created 5,250 square feet of accessible office area for the GSA staff. We provided access to the second floor thanks to a pitless elevator, an inventive solution that maintained important heritage requirements. The outdoor patio was reorganized, set within a historically designated landscape.

Project Link



Architecture, Conservation + Heritage, Interior Design


Post Secondary

Team Leaders

Joanne McCallum
Drew Hauser

Michelle Austin

Partners & sub consultants

Van Velzen + Radchenko - Kitchen Consultant
VRM - Mechanical, Electrical, Structural
MHBC - Landscape
Bestco - Contractor


10,050 SQ. FT.




2014 HBSA Architectural Awards of Excellence Award of Merit, Renovation Mixed-Use/Commercial
2013 City of Hamilton Urban Design and Architecture Awards Award of Merit in Heritage Restoration
2013 ARIDO Awards Award of Merit in Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use

Innovations + Outcomes

  • We space beautifully highlights and preserves the heritage architecture in the Refectory, and seamlessly incorporates these heritage elements into a modern and multi-functional gastro pub experience.

  • The construction schedule required that we complete all mechanical, plumbing, kitchen renovations and elevator installation within a two and half month window, when the café that existed within this space closed for the summer holidays. We successfully met this demanding schedule and had reshaped the new Phoenix Pub & Restaurant in time for opening when students returned in the fall.

  • The team was able to overcome significant design and engineering challenges in the renovation and preservation of a heritage building. For example: The Slate Roof was designated as part of the heritage character of the building, therefore exhausting through the roof was not an option. Structural wall locations and beams meant there was very little head room. A fire-rated floor assembly added to the challenge. We developed an inventive solution, venting the kitchen through a small cavity at a window peak. We successfully uncovered the original hardwood flooring, removing the existing linoleum flooring and refinishing the floors to create a warm, rich feel. It also helped the client achieve cost savings.
  • The existing mechanical system was outdated and did not provide proper thermal comfort. We installed new perimeter heating/cooling units at the windows, and allowed maintenance access with removable seating banquettes.
  • We created sustainable mechanical solutions, by installing a system designed to re-use heat from the kitchen to assist with heating the dining room’s large vaulted space.
  • The walls above the wood paneling were deemed friable asbestos. We had to complete abatement before we could begin construction. Additionally, due to historic designations, we could not touch certain walls and the large portions of the ceiling. Therefore, we incorporated a structural component into the bar design that accommodated the ducts and lighting. The design was re-created at the stage area to successfully accommodate the spot lighting during concerts.