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The Ottawa Convention Centre: Building a Modern Landmark

The city gets an unconventional addition to its downtown skyline with the new Ottawa Convention Centre
By Misa Kobayashi. Photography by William P. McElligott

Nighttime architectural rendering. Courtesy of BBB Architects.

Bold. Modern. Bright. These are just some of the words used to describe the new Ottawa Convention Centre, which opens April 13 after more than two years and a $185 million dollar rebuild.

In the fall of 2008, a demolition crew tore down what was then the 28-year-old Ottawa Congress Centre. An astounding structure has risen from the dust and debris, made with 1,084 triangular panes of glass and regionally manufactured or recycled materials. This is the vision of architect Ritchard Brisbin of Ottawa-based BBB Architects, a firm known for creating international retail, entertainment, and office complexes, among others. It’s a vision that is meant to guide the city into a new era with a structure that he says is “not simply moving into the 21st century, but helping to define it.”

Interior rendering. Courtesy of BBB Architects.

Located downtown on Colonel By Drive, the new building will be the location for meetings, special events, and conventions for people from around the world. With that in mind, the architect looked to create a place that would allow visitors to navigate the area with ease and be the site of memorable experiences. Brisbin’s design kept the shape of the building rounded and “soft” so as not to contrast with the geometric angles created by the nearby Mackenzie King Bridge and Westin Hotel. The glass exterior, measuring about 30 metres high and 90 metres long, allows for sweeping views that encompass significant Ottawa landmarks: Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, and the National Gallery of Canada.

Exterior shot of the building of the Ottawa Convention Centre.

Inside, the space will be brimming with natural light. The building contains an entire wall made of glass, which means the interior will be a major contributor to the exterior appearance. As the light changes throughout the day, the building itself will change and become even more striking at night.

Another unique trait of the design will be the towering 13-storey-high Log’s End Wall. Made from reclaimed wood taken from the Ottawa River, Gatineau River, and Rideau River, it’s a tribute to the city’s roots in the lumber industry. This feature is a fitting symbol of the effort that has gone into designing a building that connects Ottawa’s past with its future.

Beautiful in any light: an exterior shot of the centre.

The structure is an ambitious one that aims to be many things: a place that resonates with people, is environmentally friendly, and has, as Brisbin says, “an audacious personality.” But there’s no doubt that this new development will be an eye-catching addition to the ever-evolving cityscape. Says Patrick Kelly, president of the Ottawa Convention Centre, “You can see the emergence of an iconic landmark for the city of Ottawa, and indeed, for all of Canada.”

Check out the new building for yourself, located at 55 Colonel By Drive (across from the Rideau Canal) and tell us what you think on our Facebook page!

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