Sika recently played an important role in the restoration of the once imposing Pearson Conservatory situated in St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Originally built in 1882 for the cultivation of exotic plants, water lilies and orchids, the conservatory was named after Mr. Henry Pearson, the mayor of Port Elizabeth at the time. After almost being demolished in the 1970’s, Pearson Conservatory was fortunately declared a national monument in 1983. Over the years various repairs were conducted but in 2010 the Nelson Mandela Municipality approved a substantial upgrade and refurbishment to the dilapidated conservatory.

Matrix Architects awarded the main contract to Pro Khaya Construction who was tasked with installing flooring, building flower boxes and repairing internal and external walling at the conservatory. Sika MonoTop-620 (50 x 25kgs) was the contractor’s instant product choice for all concrete repairs. A cementitious, polymer-modified, one-component mortar containing silica fume, Sika MonoTop-620 is used as a pore sealer and levelling mortar. It is simple to mix, requiring water only, and its adjustable consistency and excellent adhesion to concrete, provided contractors with quick and easy applications.

After almost 130 years, all the old ironwork, as well as over 98% of the original woodwork and a considerable portion of the original glass was still in existence. However, for the restoration project, the rusted iron and rotting wood required replacement with a new steel structure, and in accordance with modern building codes, all glass panels had to be replaced with 6mm safety glass.

AMFI Craft, specialist fibreglass designers and manufacturers, supplied hundreds of metres of fibreglass architraves for the project. Prior to bonding the architraves to the epoxy painted steel structure, both substrates were pre-treated with (12 x 1 litre cans) of Sika Cleaner-205, which is an alcohol solution, containing a bond-activating substance, and is suitable for many non-porous substrates. Sika’s top quality Sikaflex-552 AT (948 x 600ml) was then applied to bond the fibreglass architraves to the steel. Sikaflex-552 AT is a high performance, elastic, gap-filling, one-component, hybrid assembly adhesive based on Sika’s silane-terminated polymer technology and contains no isocyanate. Providing good adhesion to a wide variety of substrates without primer, it is impact- and shock-proof and capable of withstanding high dynamic stresses. It is also fast-curing, ageing- and weather-resistant and silicone- and PVC-free.

Sika Cleaner-205 (6 x 1 litre cans) came to the fore once again to pre-treat all newly installed glass panels and windows as well as the surrounding steel, prior to bonding with Sika’s top quality weatherproofing sealant, Sikasil WS-305 CN. A neutral-curing, silicone sealant with a high movement capability, Sikasil WS-305 CN provides excellent adhesion to a wide range of substrates and due to its outstanding UV and weathering resistance, is ideally suited where durability under severe conditions is required. A total of 120 x 300ml cartridges of Sikasil WS-305 CN were used on Pearson Conservatory.

Time constraints imposed on this project resulted in hundreds of metres of fibreglass architraves being bonded with minimal surface preparation, while bonding and sealing of high windows took place although contractors were busy working below. In 1882, the total cost to construct Pearson Conservatory, whose parts were shipped out from England in kit form, was £3800. In 2011, the entire restoration project cost R5.5million, an amount well spent to restore this once stately national monument to her former Victorian splendour.

So imposing is the new façade of Pearson Conservatory that soon after completion of the project, an advertisement for a new sweetener was filmed there. Before and after photographs of Pearson Conservatory bear testimony to the delicate balance implemented between restoring while also modernising this Victorian structure.

Due largely to the high performance and ease of application of Sika’s internationally approved products, this rare undertaking was completed in six months. Pearson Conservatory, consisting of a central building with two wings overlooking its original fountain imported from Derby, is once again standing proudly in St George’s Park and recently scooped an Award of Merit from the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects.