Location: Ottawa, Ont.
Architect: IBI Group in association with Moriyama & Teshima Architects
OAA Design Excellence Awards Finalist
The Government of Canada Visitor Welcome Centre (VWC) is a two-level underground complex that serves as the new entrance to Parliament Hill, intended to enhance security and circulation between buildings on the site. Programming includes ticketing, scanning, and security areas on the ground floor, as well as the lower Concourse Level that contains a double-height atrium gathering space with seating areas, gift shop, and information desk. A barrel-vaulted underground passageway known as the Galleria connects visitors directly to the West Block, where the interim House of Commons resides. Additional phases will eventually expand the facility to connect with East Block and Centre Block of the Parliamentary Precinct.
VWC introduces a feeling of lightness and verticality within the constraints of restricted underground floor heights and limited natural light. Spaces are thus defined by a simplified material palette and minimalist interpretation of traditional forms: clean, white plaster cross and barrel vaulted ceilings, honed Danby marble clad columns, Adair limestone walls, bright terrazzo flooring, white oak finishes and bronze accents make the building feel calm and composed while reflecting as much light as possible; an air of finesse is introduced within the constraints of highly secure and robust construction requirements for a facility that must stand the test of time.
Located within the Public Grounds of the Parliament Buildings, VWC welcomes some 350,000 visitors annually to Parliament Hill. Its presence enhances the visitor experience for tourists and Ottawa residents alike. The VWC bridges building and landscape, as well as contemporary and heritage architecture. The generous plaza and its surrounding landscaped area, like the interior spaces, are universally accessible. The entrance arch leads to a generous, welcoming, and light-filled subterranean space for the general public. Visitors descend through a choreographed procession of spaces leading to a bright and spacious reception accommodating school groups, tourists, and local citizens on a daily basis.
Designed to LEED Gold standards, VWC is a sensitive infill project that preserves the integrity and openness of the public green on Canada’s most important heritage site. The interiors introduce a feeling of lightness and verticality within the constraints of restricted underground floor heights and limited natural light; the lower concourse ceiling opens up into a double height atrium where natural light from the entrance and exit vestibules above reaches the gathering space below. Key factors in the building material selection were based on befitting the dignity of Parliament Hill, as well as having characteristics of sustainability and durability.