RAIC Award of Merit for Innovation in Architecture: West Block Rehabilitation Project

A temporary House of Commons has been installed in the restored courtyard of Parliament Hill’s West Block. Photo by Tom Arban

Location Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario

Architect Architecture49 and EVOQ Architecture, architects in joint venture

The restoration of the West Block, the oldest of the three Parliament buildings, was one of the most significant rehabilitation projects to take place in North America. The project modernized the 19th-century building with state-of-the-art facilities and preserved its heritage and character-defining elements. It also designed a contemporary addition for an interim House of Commons under a glass canopy roof within the  courtyard of West Block.

It was the first time in 100 years that a new House of Commons was built and the government relocated from Centre Block. The Parliament buildings are classified federal heritage buildings and the finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture in North America.

The project demanded significant research and knowledge of the  architecture and construction systems of the era. Built in three successive construction campaigns between 1865 and 1910, the West Block was a cultural artifact badly in need of attention. Parliamentary office requirements had evolved to such an extent that nothing short of a major overhaul was required.

The architects formed an integrated team and led all technical design consultants to meet the complex performance requirements for the legislature to be housed in the renovated West Block for the coming decade, while Centre Block is upgraded. The designers worked in partnership with clients and building users in a collaborative environment that enhanced the expertise of each team member, in order to produce the highest quality building possible. They worked with manufacturers to develop and refine unique products toward achieving the dual goals of modernizing the building for the 21st century, and also meeting the highest standards of heritage conservation.

Tree-like structural columns support the new glass roof. Their design was inspired by the Gothic Revival architecture of the original building. Photo by Tom Arban

Through rigorous study, the heritage character–defining elements of the retained interiors were rehabilitated, including stairs, corridors and the Mackenzie office. Other spaces were designed to meet new operational and functional requirements, while capturing the design intent of the original building. The stone walls were upgraded to correct flaws that had led to their rapid deterioration, and reinforced for seismic integrity. Windows were replaced to reflect the original design profiles, and updated to meet environmental performance standards and security requirements.

The glass roof designed to span the courtyard demonstrates how contemporary and traditional architecture can co-exist. The surrounding Gothic Revival architecture inspired the design of tree-like structural columns. The enclosed courtyard is a broadcast-ready space that meets the technical challenges of acoustics, sunlight, comfort and energy efficiency.

This is a precedent-setting project for Parliament Hill, allowing cutting-edge technology to blend with cultural and architectural icons, while preserving Canada’s architectural heritage.

The skylight is engineered to meet the technical challenges of achieving a large span, as well as controlling acoustics and sunlight for a broadcast-ready space. Photo by Jayant Gupta

:: Jury ::   Richard Henriquez (CM, FRAIC), Sergio Morales (MIRAC), Johanna Hurme (FRAIC)

Pulling off a successful project of this size with so many different levels of complexity required imaginative and innovative management practices from its leaders. The very stringent program requirements from the heritage point of view meant that this was not a run-of-the-mill project.

CLIENT Public Services and Procurement Canada | STRUCTURAL Ojdrovic Engineering and John G. Cooke and Associates | MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL Crossey Engineering | LANDSCAPE Groupe BC2 | CIVIL Golder Associates | GEOTECHNICAL Golder Associates (design) and Paterson Group (site supervision) | FAÇADE FRONT | ACOUSTICS State of the Art Acoustik and Acoustic Distinctions | CLIMATE ENGINEERING Transsolar KlimatEngineering | SUSTAINABILITY WSP Canada | LIGHTING OVI and Gabriel Mackinnon Lighting Designers | COMMISSIONING VSC Group | ELEVATORS EXIM | FOOD SERVICES WSP Canada | FIRE AND LIFE SAFETY Morrison Hershfield | COSTING Hanscomb | SCHEDULING Delsaer Management | ENVIRONMENTAL T. Harris Environmental Management | SECURITY Groupe SM | BLAST ENGINEERING Hinman Consulting Engineers | WIND RWDI | HARDWARE JKT Consulting | SIGNAGE JaanKrusbergDesign | MASONRY Consultant in the Conservation of Historic Buildings and Capital Conservation Services | IRONWORK Craig Sims Heritage Building Consultant | PLASTER RESTORATION Historic Plaster Conservation Services | ENVELOPE WSP and Quirouette Building Specialists | STRUCTURAL CODE ANALYSIS Robert Tremblay | SPECIFICATIONS Circumspect | CONTRACTOR PCL Constructors Canada | AREA 30,598 m2 | BUDGET $863 M | COMPLETION September 2018

Energy Use

ENERGY USE INTENSITY (PROJECTED) 458 kWh/m2/year | WATER USE INTENSITY (PROJECTED) Less than 1.5 m3/m2/year | WATER USE INTENSITY BENCHMARK 1.59 m3/m2/year for office buildings constructed before 1970 [Real PAC]