Government of Canada Building Kingston

120 Clarence Street, Kingston, ON.

Part of a national building program in the 1950s and 1960s, the Government of Canada Building illustrates the period when the architecture of the Modern Movement was used to express the dignity and monumentality of the federal government, and to communicate a modern and efficient public service.

The Government of Canada Building in Kingston represents the extension of the federal presence into Ontario and the provision of government services into regional administrative centres in medium-sized cities.  The Government of Canada Building, like those in Sarnia, Chatham and Sudbury, is associated with the development and expansion of a national postal service along with the provision of social, service, and administrative programmes by the federal government.

Within the historic limestone city, the building was situated at the southern edge of Kingston’s commercial centre.  The Clarence Street block is a transition between the commercial area to the north and the residential area to the south (today known as the Sydenham Heritage Conservation District).Built to the street line on three sides and rising to a height of three floors, the Government of Canada Building reinforces the character of the business district.  While overtly modern in its expression, the scale and massing of the building respect the existing context of 19th and early 20th century commercial and institutional buildings.

The horizontal massing and street elevations are composed of simple, geometrical forms based on a module established by the structural grid.  The Government of Canada Building is characterized by a rectilinear geometry and a hierarchy of elements employed in a repetitive rhythm.  The grey granite cladding of the frame is compatible with the historic limestone architecture of Kingston.  The industrialized building technology comprises an aluminum curtain wall, glazing and green spandrels, which were deployed in a variety of configurations to accommodate internal arrangements.  A brick penthouse with a curved profile, armorial crests, and cantilevered entrance canopies contribute to the overall design.  The Government of Canada Building features both high quality materials and craftsmanship.

Designed by Kingston architects Drever and Smith, the Government of Canada Building was constructed at a time when the federal government was beginning to use private sector architects.  The building is an important work of the period by the firm.

Despite lacking federal heritage designation, the building retains a high level of integrity.  The Government of Canada Building is one of the best surviving examples of the Modern Movement within Frontenac County.