Bank of Canada

234 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON.

“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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