Trudeau Previews Senate’s New Beaux-Arts Home

Together with Diamond Schmitt Architects’ Martin Davidson, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently toured the interim home for the Senate of Canada, which is now under construction in Ottawa. The city’s century-old Beaux Arts train station — opened in 1912 — was converted to the Government Conference Centre in the late 1960s and is now being restored to house the Senate while Centre Block on Parliament Hill undergoes a thorough decade-long renovation.

Government Conference Centre, Ottawa, Diamond Schmitt Architects
GCC Dusk Dusk View

In joint venture with KWC Architects, Diamond Schmitt are restoring the major public spaces including the finely detailed General Waiting Room and Concourse to reveal spaces and architectural details not seen in 50 years. The renovations will also reintroduce the processional route through the building and add a public face to the previously unfinished east façade. The project will also re-introduce a number of 1912 design features — such as the vaulted plaster ceilings and Diocletian windows — which were lost to previous retrofits.

Government Conference Centre, Ottawa, Diamond Schmitt Architects
The Senate Chamber

“The Prime Minister took great interest in the restoration work underway and how the building is being upgraded for the 21st century,” said Martin Davidson, of the Toronto-based architecture practice. The building will house the Senate Chamber, Senate committee rooms and parliamentary offices and restore interior design features of columns, arches, large Diocletian windows, marble floors and vaulted plaster ceilings. A pedestrian tunnel connecting with the Chateau Laurier Hotel will also be re-opened.

Government Conference Centre, Ottawa, Diamond Schmitt Architects
The Restored Concourse

The interim Senate will become universally accessible and more functional, with new elevator banks and staircases to connect the north and south blocks. Structural, mechanical and electrical systems will be brought up to current codes. State of the art IT, broadcasting and lighting enhancements will position the building for many more decades of renewed use.

The Senate will relocate to the former train station in the fall of 2018. The Library of Parliament will conduct tours of the building, allowing public access for the first time in decades.