Federal government plans an architectural design competition for city block across from Parliament Hill

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The federal government is launching an architectural design competition for a city block directly across from Parliament Hill. The competition was announced by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) last week on its website.

The area faces the Centre Block and the Peace Tower and is the threshold between city-owned and Crown-owned lands, says PSPC. The block is bordered by Metcalfe, Wellington, O’Connor and Sparks streets.

“Our goal is to transform this mix of aging buildings into an efficient and innovative complex that will meet the needs of a modern Parliament as well as the public. The redesigned block will provide office space for the Senate and the House of Commons. It will include space for a branch of the Library of Parliament. It will also include renovated retail space on the Sparks Street Mall,” says the PSPC.

“Through an architectural design competition, we will invite architectural firms to submit design proposals. An independent and professional jury will choose the winning design and team.

The winning design is expected to be of the highest caliber and will complement the image of Canada and its capital on the world stage.”

The redevelopment of the block continues the work the PSPC is doing around Parliament Hill, such as:

  • The Centre Block: Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is embarking on the largest heritage restoration project that Canada has ever seen
  • The Visitors’ Welcome Centre: The first phase of the Visitor Welcome Centre is a modern, four-level underground complex. It’s designed to blend perfectly with the historical structures and natural surroundings of Parliament Hill
  • The East Block: The federal government is restoring and modernizing Parliament Hill’s East Block, in two phases
  • Rehabilitating the grounds of Parliament Hill: Landscaping will be improved as part of the construction projects currently underway
  • Completed projects: The Senate of Canada Building, the West Block, the Wellington Building, and the Sir John A. MacDonald Building.

The property across from Parliament Hill was obtained by the federal government in 1973, and consists of 11 buildings, many of which are in a state of disrepair. Two of the properties are designated heritage sites, the former embassy of the United States and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building, and as such are protected.

Architectural design competitions, explains the PSPC, support variety and are among the most effective ways to achieve excellence in building design and architecture.

“They are often used to generate innovative new ideas. Canada’s original Parliament Buildings were the result of a design competition in 1859. Competitions have produced many culturally significant buildings in Canada and around the globe.” They include:

  • The Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Civilization Museum) which is across the river from the Parliament Buildings
  • Toronto City Hall
  • The Sydney Opera House
  • The Centre Pompidou
  • The Tokyo International Forum

The competition will be overseen by professional advisors designated by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). The institute says it is “the leading voice for excellence in the built environment in Canada, demonstrating how design enhances the quality of life, while addressing important issues of society through responsible architecture … (its) mission is to promote excellence in the built environment and to advocate for responsible architecture.”

The plan is to complete it in two stages, the first of which will be a Request for Qualification. This phase is to be open to all interested parties who can prove they are qualified to do the work. Up to 12 firms will be chosen to advance to the second stage. The first stage includes the selection of the independent jury.

The second phase will be the competition stage. This second part will be conducted in two separate phases, the first of which will be the architectural design competition: Request for Proposals.

For the first competition stage of the second phase, PSPC will invite the selected competitors to submit an outline of their design concepts. The jury will then evaluate the design concepts and short-list up to six competitors, who will move to stage two of the competition.

When the process moves to stage two of the competition, the short-listed competitors will be invited to submit an advanced design concept (a detailed design plan for the concept they submitted in the first stage). The jury will select a winner after reviewing the submissions. Prizes will be awarded or the best three designs.

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