Ontario Construction News staff writer
Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects of Ottawa will be recognized with a Civic Trust Award in 2020. Europe’s longest-running awards program for the built environment selected The Senate of Canada Building in Ottawa for “demonstrating excellence in architecture, sustainability, inclusiveness and universal design.” This is the third year in a row that Diamond Schmitt has been recognized.
Originally Ottawa’s central train station – Beaux-Arts, the building opened in 1912 and served until recently as the Government Conference Centre and is now the Senate’s temporary home. Extensive renovations have given the historic structure a new lease on life, thanks to the Senate.
The Senate’s permanent home, Parliament’s Centre Block, is undergoing its first major rehabilitation since the building’s opening in 1920.
There had been a proposal to build an interim Senate Chamber in the courtyard of the East Block building. Instead, senators decided to move into the neglected Government Conference Centre, accelerating the building’s restoration while saving taxpayers approximately $200 million.
The building, which has been off-limits to the public for most of the past 50 years, required a complete overhaul of major building systems as well as compliance with seismic codes, accessibility, and life safety upgrades. Two committee rooms have been built into the monumental and finely detailed general waiting room while the concourse now houses the Senate chamber. Offices and public space have been added.
The exterior has been reimagined as a modern interpretation of the building’s stone-columned west facade. The entry forecourt now includes The Famous Five, a sculpture celebrating the suffragette movement.
“This project provided a remarkable opportunity to investigate and engage in a range of design innovations to introduce a new program in a historic building, and to convey Canadian identity through contemporary interpretations of landscape and iconography,” Martin Davidson, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects said in a statement.
The Civic Trust also rewards projects that offer positive cultural, social, economic or environmental benefits. When the Senate returns to Parliament Hill in ten or more years, the structure will accommodate conference and office needs, giving new purpose to a legendary building.
Previous Civic Trust awards recognized the National Arts Centre rejuvenation (2019) and Lazaridis Hall at Wilfrid Laurier University (2018), Bridgepoint Active Healthcare (2015) and Daniels Spectrum (2013).