Centre Block Rehabilitation: Restoring a Canadian icon: Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Independent Design Review Panel


Over the past several years, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has successfully completed several major restoration and modernization projects on some of the most notable heritage assets in the National Capital, including the Library of Parliament, the Sir John A Macdonald and Wellington buildings, the West Block and the Senate of Canada Building. The standard for design is high in this context, and must be balanced with functionality that serves a variety of uses, notably those of Parliament and the public.

Work is now underway on the apex project, the Centre Block, of this complex series of interdependent projects focused on restoring key elements of Canada’s built heritage and transforming Canada’s Parliamentary Precinct into a modern integrated campus. This is the largest and most complex heritage rehabilitation project ever undertaken in Canada, one of the largest globally, and among the most important architectural design work happening in Canada today. In addition to the task of restoring and modernizing this heritage building, a new Parliament Welcome Centre is being inserted into the heritage landscape to enable Canada’s Parliament to become both more secure as well as much more accessible to all Canadians, inviting more Canadians to engage in our country’s parliamentary tradition and democratic processes.

The Government of Canada is committed to getting it right, something this place and space demands and Canadians deserve. To get it right, PSPC has established a number of partnerships to leverage expertise. One of those partnerships is with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), which is helping to ensure that world-class design is brought to bear on some of the most important public buildings in our country.

One of the key challenges facing PSPC and the design team has been integrating the Parliament Welcome Centre into the heritage landscape and the heritage Centre Block building. Ensuring that the Parliament Welcome Centre brought together the parliamentary lawn and the Centre Block, acting as a bridge between the two, rather than separating or dividing them, required resolving many interrelated design challenges and finding the right balance.

To assist in achieving this balance in the design for the rehabilitated Centre Block and new Parliament Welcome Centre, PSPC, working in partnership with the National Capital Commission, and in collaboration with Parliament, engaged the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada to assemble an Independent Design Review Panel.

This group of eminent Canadian architects and design professionals as well as a former Architect of the Capitol (United States) in Washington reviewed and provided independent professional advice that has helped to guide PSPC and the design lead, CENTRUS, to find the balance between restoring this Canadian icon and modernizing it to support a 21st-century parliamentary democracy and making it more open and accessible for all Canadians.

The manner in which the Parliament Welcome Centre fits into the heritage landscape and into the Centre Block will ensure Canada’s Parliament is more secure and more accessible to all Canadians, inviting more Canadians to engage in our country’s parliamentary traditions and democratic processes. The restored and modernized Centre Block, including the Parliament Welcome Centre, will provide enhanced security, inclusivity, and dignity for all who visit and work in these important spaces.

The concept design has been endorsed by the Panel and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, as well as the Senate of Canada and House of Commons. On the design itself, the Panel noted:

“The resulting entry scheme to the Parliament Welcome Centre is simple, intuitive and elegant. Its exterior design affirms Canada’s “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of historic places in Canada” principle of minimum intervention into the Parliament Lawn whose heritage value is so important to Canadians. Further, we now have a sequence of interesting and thoughtful spaces throughout the entire entry circulation system that are similarly simple, intuitive and elegant. We are convinced that following these concepts, documented through feedback provided at multiple workshops, will result in a remarkable visitor experience for all.”

In their final report, the Independent Design Review Panel and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada provided additional comments on this historic project:

“It is our view that there is no more important architectural design work happening in Canada today. This project is quite literally an exercise in nation building. It is a critically important project for the Canadian Parliament and for all Canadians. The standards and expectations are exceptionally high, and the work undertaken will last for generations. There exists a one-off opportunity to get it right.”

“We feel strongly that this design review process is a best practice approach and is helping to create world-class design solutions for Parliament and Canadians.”

“We are convinced that the current design concepts provide a solid platform and clear direction for the project to achieve a world-class success.”

The partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada will continue as the concept design matures, and PSPC and CENTRUS will continue to benefit from the members of the Independent Design Review Panel.

Members of the Independent Design Review Panel:

Hon. Stephen Ayers, Architect

Stephen Ayers, FAIA, NAC, CCM, LEED AP
Former Architect of the Capitol, Washington, DC

Ayers served under presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump during his 11-year tenure.

He assumed the office as Acting Architect in February 2007, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama and was unanimously confirmed as permanent Architect of the Capitol by the United States Senate on May 12, 2010. Working on Capitol Hill for more than 22 years, Ayers oversaw 2,300 employees, 20 million square feet of space and an annual budget of $725M. He is an Air Force veteran and a licensed architect in the State of California.

Ayers is the first Architect of the Capitol to be certified as an Accredited Professional in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and worked to reduce energy consumption on Capitol Hill. In 2011, he received the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence from the Construction Industry Institute and in 2018 he received the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture from the American Institute of Architects. He is a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and was elected as a member of the National Academy of Construction in 2013.

Shirley Blumberg, Architect

Partner, CM, OAA, FRAIC, AIA

Shirley Blumberg, CM, OAA, FRAIC, AIA is a founding partner of KPMB Architects and a Member of the Order of Canada for her contribution to architecture.

She has designed many of the firm’s noteworthy and award-winning projects, including the Fort York Public Library, the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre at UBC, and the Centre for International Governance Innovation Campus. She was also the design partner for a major mixed-use academic and residential complex, Ponderosa Hub, at the University of British Columbia.

Recently completed projects she has led include the Global Centre for Pluralism for the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada in Ottawa the Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building and the Louis A. Simpson International Building at Princeton University, the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics and the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.

In addition to the academic and cultural work, her practice addresses a broad range of projects including social housing and a water reclamation centre.

Shirley has served on the Toronto City Design Review Panel and the Toronto Community Housing Design Review Panel and established Building Equality in Architecture Toronto, an independent initiative dedicated to the promotion of equality in the profession of architecture.

Wanda Dalla Costa, Architect

Wanda Dalla Costa is a practicing architect and professor who has been co-designing with North American Indigenous communities for over two decades. Her research focus includes Indigenous place-keeping and culturally responsive design. Dalla Costa currently teaches at Arizona State University, where she is an Institute Professor in The Design School, an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and the Director/founder of the Indigenous Design Collaborative, a community-driven design and construction program. Dalla Costa is a member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation and the first First Nations woman to become a registered architect in Canada. She was one of eighteen Indigenous architects representing Canada in the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 and a Yerba Buena Center For The Arts 2019 honoree, an award which celebrates people, organizations, and movements shifting culture through ideas, their art, and their activism. Her firm, Tawaw Architecture Collective is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

George Dark, Landscape Architect


Senior Consultant, Landscape Architect and Urban Designer at Urban Strategies, he is a member of both the College of Fellows of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) and the Council of Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects. He is the second recipient of the Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture, the highest honour bestowed on a Landscape Architect by the CSLA. Following a career with two international consulting firms, George was a partner of Urban Strategies for over 30 years developing the firm’s Urban Design and Landscape Architectural practice. George currently is a senior consultant with the firm, collaborating with USI to lead the strategic design direction of urban regeneration projects for some of the largest urban projects in Canada.

George regularly assists public and private organizations with institutional strengthening, design management and civic urban design process. George is active in the charitable and not for profit sectors having served as Board Chair of the Evergreen Foundation of Canada for over 12 years while creating Brickworks, leading to his appointment as Chairman Emeritus of the organization. He is currently Chairman of the Board of the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, a Trustee of the McMichael Canadian Collection Gallery, chairing the Property and Buildings Committee of the Board of Trustees and was the Past Founding Chair of the Academic Advisory Council of the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts and the Toronto Parks Foundation. 

Barry Padolsky, Architect

Barry Padolsky B. Arch., M. Sc. (Urban Design), OAA, FRAIC, RCA, CAHP

An Ottawa-based architect, urban design, and heritage consultant with 55 years of experience. He has been recognized with 43 national and civic design awards including the Massey Medal, the Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award, and 29 awards for heritage conservation. Barry is a city planning, heritage conservation and visual arts advocate. He is currently a member (and former vice-chair) of the City of Ottawa Built Heritage Sub-committee. His essays have been featured in the Ottawa Citizen and the Globe and Mail.

Claude Provencher, Architect

Claude Provencher co-founded Montréal-based firm Provencher_Roy in 1983. Considered one of the fathers of the new urban architecture that emerged in Canada in the late 1970s, he is the firm’s senior designer and has led an impressive number of architecture and urban design projects whose outstanding merit has garnered the firm numerous distinctions over the years, including the Governor General’s Medal and awards from Canadian Architect magazine and the Ordre des architectes du Québec. An example of one of the firm’s projects that garnered a first merit award at the 49th edition of the Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence at the conceptual phase, was the new reception pavilion at the National Assembly of Québec. It was designed by Provencher Roy in consortium with GLCRM Architectes. The project embodies a thorough understanding and mastery of heritage issues and shows great care and attention paid to an exceptional site.

Mr. Provencher supervises the design teams and helps establish the major orientations of the firm’s projects. Through his active, hands-on style, he ensures a continuous link with the client team and assists in project development.

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and member of the Ordre des architectes du Québec and the Ontario Association of Architects, Claude Provencher was curator and member of the advisory committee for the Conseil du patrimoine culturel du Québec from 2009 to 2016.

From 1999 to 2011, he sat on the Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty of the National Capital Commission, in Ottawa. Quite dedicated to his profession, he has sat on numerous university committees and organizations for the advancement of excellence in architecture. Mr. Provencher has been a frequent guest speaker at conferences on architecture and urban design, both in Canada and in Europe.

Don Schmitt, Architect

Don Schmitt, CM, OAA, FRAIC, RCA, AIA is the senior partner at Diamond Schmitt and a Member of the Order of Canada for architecture, design excellence and community contribution. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto where he won the RAIC Medal in the thesis year.

Recent buildings include the transformation of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, the Senate of Canada Building, The Collections, Curatorial and Conservation Centre for The Ingenium Museum of Science and Technology and the new Ottawa Public Library/Library and Archives Canada. Notable projects include Gilgan Center for Research at SickKids Hospital, Toronto, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Lazaridis Hall at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo. Current projects include Geffen Hall, The New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, the York University Campus in Markham and the transformation of the historic Royal Victoria Hospital buildings and grounds as a campus devoted to sustainability systems and public policy for McGill University in Montreal.

His work on the design of compact, sustainable neighbourhoods involves a number of mixed-use communities including SmartCentres Place in Vaughan, Ontario, transit oriented, pedestrian centered and, at 20 million square feet, a significant landmark in North American urbanism.

Don is the Founding Chair of the Public Art Commission for the City of Toronto for which he was awarded the Civic Medal. He has served on the Design Review Panel of the National Capital Commission, Waterfront Toronto and is currently a Member of the Design Review Panel of the University of Toronto.

He is committed to design that transcends and supports community with sustainability, environmentalism and grace.

Dr. Jutta Treviranus, inclusive design and accessibility

Jutta Treviranus is the Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and professor in the faculty of Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University in Toronto. Dr. Treviranus established the IDRC in 1993 as the nexus of a growing global community that proactively works to ensure that our digitally transformed and globally connected society is designed inclusively. She also heads the Inclusive Design Institute, a multi-university regional centre of expertise. Jutta founded an innovative graduate program in inclusive design at OCAD University. She leads international multi-partner research networks that have created broadly implemented innovations that support digital equity. She has played a leading role in developing accessibility legislation, standards and specifications internationally. She serves on many advisory bodies globally to provide expertise in smart cities and inclusive digital infrastructure (e.g., Waterfront Toronto, London Olympics, NYC Libraries, World Economic Forum, Canadian Museum of Human Rights, etc.). Jutta’s work has been attributed as the impetus for corporate adoption of more inclusive practices in large enterprise companies such as Microsoft and Adobe.

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