Track 4: POLICY and PRACTICE / Volet 4: Politiques et pratique

The Search for Compatibility – A Case Study: The West Block Rehabilitation Project

Friday, October 13
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada is the reference document guiding all interventions in heritage buildings owned by the federal government. The three buildings (East, West and Centre Blocks) which make up Parliament Hill, Ottawa, are governed by the Standards and Guidelines. Standard 11 is an interesting and subtle statement regarding new work within historic buildings, which must be “distinguishable”, “subordinate to” and “compatible with” the heritage context. EVOQ Architecture (FGMDA) has developed its own design response to Standard 11, which has been applied to a number of award-winning projects, including the soon-to-be-completed West Block Rehabilitation Project.
Although one can easily imagine how new additions to historic sites can be made more or less subordinate to or distinguishable from their heritage context, the search for compatible design approaches is a much more complex endeavor because it covers the vast territory that lies between radical contrast and pure imitation. However, a careful reading of a site’s specific characteristics, an understanding of the models that guided a building’s initial construction and a clear view of its patterns of evolution can generate designs that achieve new but coherent ensembles, respectful of a place’s history but fully engaged in its continuing evolution.
The West Block of Parliament is one of Canada’s most significant heritage buildings. It is undergoing extensive rehabilitation work. Most notably, it will serve as Canada’s legislative building during the rehabilitation of the Centre Block. In order to provide enough space for the Interim Chamber of the House of Commons, a permanent addition is being built within the West Block’s courtyard. To continue the reading of the courtyard as an outdoor space, and to protect the heritage structures that surround it, the new structure is self-supporting and integrates all necessary systems within a multi-layered high-tech glazed roof that arches over the whole of the courtyard space. It is the largest installation of its kind in Canada.
The new architecture of the courtyard infill was developed on the basis of a very detailed understanding of the West Block’s – and of Parliament Hill’s -- architectural character, heritage values and historical evolution. This understanding informed what heritage features needed to be preserved or enhanced, but it also was the foundation for the creation of a new, compatible, piece of architecture that, although clearly contemporary, was inspired by the Gothic Revival architecture it complements.
The presentation will outline how the architectural integration rationale was developed, to meet all the programmatic requirements and also to respond to the provisions of Standard 11, how it informed the design of the building’s new addition and how it impacted the extensive design review process that was implemented for this major rehabilitation project.

Learning Objectives:

Georges Drolet, OAQ, OAA, AAA, AANB, RAIC, SAH

Architect / Director
EVOQ Architecture

Georges Drolet is Lead Design Architect for the West Block Rehabilitation Project and Director of EVOQ Architecture (FGMDA), member firm of the Arcop/FGM Joint Venture. Trained as an architect at McGill University and with a Masters in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, Georges has been responsible for developing conservation strategies and award-winning designs for some of the most significant buildings in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. Georges also teaches architectural history and heritage conservation at major universities in Montreal. He is a member of the Conseil du Patrimoine de Montréal and of the Board of Directors of ICOMOS Canada.


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Andrew Waldron


Mr. Waldron is the Heritage Conservation Manager at BGIS, a facilities and project management company. He has been a Parks Canada Superintendent, the Canadian Registrar of Historic Places and manager of the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office. As an architectural historian, he specialises in Canadian modernism. He has been president of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, is author of Exploring the Capital: An Architectural Guide to the Ottawa-Gatineau Region and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University in the History and Theory of Architecture.


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The Search for Compatibility – A Case Study: The West Block Rehabilitation Project

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