documentation and conservation
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of the modern movement
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    Bank of Canada

    234 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON.
    architect(s): ,
    constructed: 1979

    One of the most important city blocks in downtown Ottawa has been developed as the new headquarters of the Bank of Canada, including the renovation and integration of the original bank headquarters into the project. Of special importance was to achieve an architectural expression that would harmonize with the architectural style of the Parliament Buildings, maintain the spatial sequence of the surrounding streets, and integrate visually the old building, with the new development.”

    Arthur Erickson

    Arthur Erickson’s design was a major addition to the 1938 Bank of Canada building and encompassed an entire city block on a prestigious Wellington Street site in the National Capital.  The existing bank building (S.G. Davenport with Marani, Lawson and Morris,) was a late addition to Ottawa’s bankers row. An example of modern classicism and finished in grey granite, the building was consistent with the temple form of contemporary banks.

    Reflecting emerging interests in heritage conservation in Canadian cities, Erickson’s design for a much-expanded headquarters for the Bank of Canada was centered on the existing bank building. The scheme comprised two 12-storey towers, placed symmetrically about the heritage building, with an 80m. high glazed atrium linking the existing building with the two towers. The granite bank sits both within and without the atrium. It maintained its relationship with Wellington Street to the north, while becoming the focal point of a lushly planted, public wintergarden, which faced Sparks Street pedestrian mall to the south. The design of the garden was executed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, in collaboration with Erickson and the team.

    The taut, faceted curtain wall of mirrored glass and copper reflects images of the traditional stone buildings nearby, while at night provides a transparency that contrasts with the solidity of the granite bank. Patinated copper detailing and green slate paving reference the materials of the gothic revival architecture of nearby Parliament.

    The office towers were based on a thirty-foot square grid and reinforced concrete structure. Structural, mechanical and electrical systems, as well as offices and furnishings formed a seamlessly integrated ensemble. The entire building and its associated landscape feature fine materials and craftsmanship.

    The Bank of Canada is a significant work of two internationally recognized professionals, architect Arthur Erickson and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. For many years, alterations and repairs to the building and its associated urban landscape were sensitively executed under the direction of André Audette, until his retirement.

    Since 1938, the Bank of Canada building has been associated with the activities of Canada’s central bank. While the Bank of Canada Act has been modified many times over the years, the site has continuously been associated with the bank’s mandate, “to regulate credit and currency in the best interests of the economic life of the nation,” along with its Governors, employees, and their activities.

    A controversial renewal project led by Perkins + Will is to be completed by 2018.

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    When architecture meets collective values

    On a winter day, Ottawa looked as if it had all the colour sucked out of it. As I visited the headquarters of the Bank of Canada recently, the building’s reflective glass mirrored shades of greige in the cityscape’s slush, asphalt and limestone. Then I stepped inside the bank’s atrium, a 12-storey-tall space lined with shimmering […]


    Architect Arthur Erickson’s Bank of Canada legacy

    Why some of the celebrated Canadian architect’s work has been discarded As the Bank of Canada’s roughly 1,600 employees move back into to their landmark Ottawa headquarters early this year, few are likely to pause to admire any of the 50 rather plain oak-and-tubular-steel desks scattered through some of their shared meeting spaces. There are, […]


    Heritage experts object to Bank of Canada’s plans to change “iconic” building

    Completed in 1979, the Bank of Canada head office was immediately hailed as an architectural gem. Symmetrical glass towers flank the grey-granite building which had established the Bank’s presence on Wellington Street since the 1930s. Where the original building communicates permanence and weight, the 1970s structure by architect Arthur Erickson is light and welcoming. The […]


    Bank of Canada renewal plan stirs controversy

    The complex at 234 Wellington St. is “a marvellous work of art,” says Phyllis Lambert, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and of Heritage Montreal. Lambert was also director of planning for the Seagram Building, a New York City skyscraper built in 1958 and regarded as a modern masterpiece. “How do we […]

    documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement