Senate of Canada, Ottawa

Diamond Schmitt Architects, Toronto / KWC Architects, Ottawa

Photography by Tom Arban

Ottawa’s former Grand Trunk, then Union, Station typified the many grand Beaux-Arts-style institutional buildings in the early 20th century inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla, with lofty vaulted coffered ceilings rising above thermal windows springing from colonnades of Ionic columns. The grandest was Pennsylvania Station in New York, where they demolished the building; in Ottawa they tore up the tracks. The need to relocate the Senate during the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block provided a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone opportunity to renovate the former station, recently a conference centre. The brief called for restoring the marble floors and faux travertine finishes, and in the 3/4-scale copy of the Great Hall at the Baths of Caracalla and now designated as the lobby, the cast-plaster ceiling and cast-iron windows. New elements include bronze panels framing landscape photos rendered as half-tone images. Maple leaves hand-carved by the Dominion Sculptor of Canada were 3D scanned, machine-carved into doors and used in cast-glass panels. The wood-paneled Chamber incorporates carved wood pilasters of an abstracted pinecone pattern framing heraldic shields.