Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: Golden Boy Repair

October 1, 2003
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

CATEGORY: PROJECT MANAGEMENTDILLON CONSULTINGWhen the Manitoba government embarked on a program to repair and restore the Manitoba Legislative building in October 2000, they intended simply to re-gild...



When the Manitoba government embarked on a program to repair and restore the Manitoba Legislative building in October 2000, they intended simply to re-gild the Golden Boy statue that is on top of the building. The statue, sculpted by Georges Gardet of Paris, measures 5.25 metres tall and weighs 1,650 kilograms. It had been placed on the Winnipeg building in 1919, following a harrowing and extended journey on a troop ship from France during WWI.

However, the consulting team led by Dillon Consulting discovered that the statue was in need of more than cosmetic repairs. Dillon’s first physical examination showed that the gilded surface was almost completely weathered, but more importantly, corrosion was just visible at the support rod.

X-rays showed that the support rod had lost up to 15 mm of its original 125 mm diameter due to corrosion. Dillon then had photogrammetry done of the statue’s exterior to produce record drawings and provide an accurate surface area to calculate wind loads. A metals conservator from the Royal Ontario Museum was hired to catalogue all the metal defects.

Dillon’s calculations, corroborated later by tests of a 1:20 scale model in the University of Western Ontario’s Boundary Wind Tunnel Laboratory, showed that at the current rate of corrosion, the available yield stress of the rod would be reached in 15 to 30 years — a short period in the life of the statue.

The statue is unique and repair expertise was not easy to find. No records were available from France, nor were there any artisans left from the era in which it was constructed. In July 2002, the conservator of antiquities of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles conducted a videoscope inspection with limited success. Only after another videoscope was done using a 500-watt light source that Dillon rigged up, and which was inserted through the Golden Boy’s shoulder, was it possible to determine the original methods of fastening the rod to the statue and to see how the various segments were connected.


With great care, using a custom-designed support cradle, the statue was dismounted under the watchful eye of hundreds of Manitoba’s citizens. More than 500,000 visitors saw the Golden Boy “up close and personal” at three different viewing locations during the seven months the statue spent on the ground.

A local Manitoba machine shop was contracted to undertake the repairs. Dillon supervised this process, including the provision of expertise in bronze welding, statue disassembly, and bronze casting. After the statue was disassembled into four pieces, the 150-mm support rod was removed and replaced with a new stainless steel rod. The new rod not only had to be corrosion-resistant and durable, but also it had to be of a metal that was compatible with the base bronze. Electrical conductivity was also a consideration since the Golden Boy is essentially a large lightning rod. Fabrication of the new rod had to take into account a compound bend in the statue leg, and two different diameters.

In its original form, the bronze casting joint assembly used what is essentially a tongue and groove butt joint. The reassembly reproduced this exactly.

Dillon’s subconsultants, Spencer R. Higgins Architect, designed a new coating system that included a 23.75 K gold leaf final coat. First the old coat was removed using a large spray booth in Bristol Aerospace that could handle the potentially harmful waste blast materials. After 35 trials, Dillon found a walnut shell material from California was best for cleaning the bronze effectively without damaging its surface. Bristol Aerospace painted the statue with four brushed coats of lead-based paint. Then, in August 2002, the Golden Boy was moved to the Forks where it was shoehorned into the centre court. A climate controlled enclosure was built around the statue and the gilding completed in full view of the public.

The Golden Boy was installed back on the Legislative Building dome on September 5, 2002. An electric lamp that had been affixed to the torch of the statue in 1966 was not replaced, and the holes drilled into the metal for the power cable fixings were closed up as these had been letting in rain. Structurally, the statue is now expected to last as long as the building. ISIS Canada has installed movement and stress monitoring devices on the support shaft; live monitoring readings and a live web cam are shown at

The Golden Boy was repaired for approximately $1.0 million. It was an extremely challenging project involving more than 10 subconsultants and test labs, and 10 contractors. A major contribution also came from the Province of Manitoba who saw the symbolic importance of the Golden Boy to the people of Manitoba and gave full support to the consulting team.

Name of project: Repair and conservation of the “Golden Boy” bronze statue, Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg

Award-winning firm/prime consultant: Dillon Consulting (Winnipeg office, Robert A. Wiebe, P.Eng., Sital S. Rihal, P.Eng., Ameen S. Deraj, P.Eng.)

Project owner: Province of Manitoba

Client: Transportation and Government Services Dept.

Other key players: Spencer R. Higgins Architect, Test Labs International, Jerry Podany, Popplewell and Assoc., FS Ltd., Susan Stock, Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory, Dr. Aftab Mufti, P.Eng., Dr. Gamil Tadros, P.Eng., Winnipeg Industrial Technology Centre, ISIS.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories