documentation and conservation
of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods
of the modern movement
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    Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers Union

    2300 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, ON.
    architect(s):
    constructed: 1974

    Sited on an arterial road in Ottawa’s western suburbs, Schoeler and Heaton’s cylindrical design for the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers Union was inspired by the shape of a railway roundhouse.  Associated with the labour movement in the modern era, this building was the national headquarters of one of the country’s oldest unions, and one its largest.

    The building is also associated with trade unionist Aaron Roland Mosher, the founder of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees (1908).  The building was named the A.R. Mosher Centre / Centre A.R. Mosher in 1983.

    The two storey, flat roofed building features a partially submerged ground floor of concrete, with a larger, upper floor cantilevering from it.  The deeply recessed, main entrance is from the side street, slightly below grade.  It features two bronze doors, each with a bas-relief from which figures of workers’ hands, gears, and tools emerge.  The focus of the interior is a central skylit atrium with a curving stair.  The upper floor is comprised of repeated bays of floor-to-ceiling glazing with a bronze tint.  A circular, canted metal penthouse rises from the flat roof, and accommodates a skylight.  The design is one of abstraction, with the cylindrical form and the symbol of the circle resonating with the unity of the brotherhood.

    The building is much smaller than the neighbouring apartment towers and commercial buildings on Carling Avenue; however, the simple geometry, limited material palette, fine detailing, craftsmanship, and complementary landscape serve to elevate the building to a landmark.

    The project for the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers Union followed Schoeler and Heaton’s successful union headquarters for the Public Service Alliance of Canada Building.  The 12 storey office building in downtown Ottawa, completed in 1968, is characterized by its elliptical floor plan thus sharing a formal clarity and curvilinear geometry with the much smaller Carling Avenue building.

    The Railway, Transport and General Workers Union merged with the Canadian Auto Workers in 1994, at the time the most powerful private sector union in Canada.  Now an office building for a Canadian corporation, the building and its associated landscape retain their integrity.

    The headquarters for the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers Union was featured in the exhibit and publication “Viewpoints: 100 Years of Architecture in Ontario.”

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