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Temporary quarters: Senate of Canada Building

Canada’s Senate gets an interim home in what was once the capital’s main train station.

November 21, 2019 |

The east façade of the Ottawa train station,  now the new home of Canada’s Senate.

Canada’s Parliamentary complex, in Ottawa, is undergoing a massive 10-year restoration that includes the Centre Block, which houses the government’s two parliamentary chambers. A project team led by Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects has converted the city’s 1912 train station into a stately interim home for one of those chambers, the Senate.

The building is a prominent component of the Confederation Square Historic site and is located within the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site’s buffer zone. The train station closed in 1968 but the building was repurposed as the Government Conference Centre.

Numerous ad hoc renovations that marred the Beaux Arts classicism of the original were made, as well as seismic and life safety improvements and restoration work to reestablish its character-defining elements.


The renovated Senate ChamberThe renovated Senate Chamber.


The design introduced a contemporary language of interventions and insertions within the monumental and finely detailed General Waiting Room and Concourse.

The chief technical problem involved the rehabilitation of two magnificent suspended plaster ceilings. Several precast coffered panels were tested to determine their strength and typical failure mechanisms. No North American precedent existed, so the team tried a conservation strategy from the United Kingdom to determine its suitability for this ceiling type. The system now serves as a new precedent for plaster conservation in Canada.

Other heritage features, such as Diocletian windows, original door frames, trim, and wainscoting, were salvaged, repaired, and refinished. The gross area was increased to 192,000 sf, from 135,000 sf.

Ninety percent of construction costs went toward making the building reusable as office and conference space once the Centre Block restoration is completed.

General contractor PCL diverted 93% of construction waste from landfill. Building envelope upgrades saved 162,000 kg of carbon emissions. The project earned Green Globes 4 certification.



BUILDING TEAM Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects (submitting firms, architects in joint venture) Public Services and Procurement Canada (owner) ERA Architects (conservation architect) John G. Cooke & Associates (SE) Crossey Engineering (M/E engineer) PCL (CM) DETAILS 130,000 sf Total cost $219 million Construction time March 2014 to January 2019 Delivery method CM fast-track

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