West Block: History and design

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About the West Block

The West Block, along with the Centre and East Blocks, is part of the core of Canada’s Parliamentary Precinct. It’s located on the western side of Parliament Hill.

In November 2018, we finished restoring and modernizing the West Block. It now hosts Canada’s members of Parliament in its interim House of Commons Chamber. The Chamber is in a soaring, glass-roofed structure, built into the central courtyard at the heart of the building.

Work began in 2011 to repair and modernize the building. The renovation brought the West Block up to modern safety and accessibility standards. It also ensured the building meets the current and future needs of Parliament. The project cost $863 million. This was all done while preserving the building’s heritage features.

The House of Commons began sitting in the building in January 2019.

History and architecture

In 1859, architects Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver designed the West Block in a High Victorian version of the Gothic Revival style. It is a Classified Federal Heritage Building.

The West Block was built in three phases. Construction started in 1859, and the building opened in 1866. The West Block was completed in 1909. It encompasses:

  • the South and East Wings, built from 1859 to 1865
  • the Northwest Wing, built from 1875 to 1879
  • the North Wing, built from 1906 to 1909

The architects designed the West Block to house offices for the federal public service. As more space was needed, the two large additions were built. Before the recent project, the West Block had not been completely renovated since 1965.

Interesting facts

The West Block was constructed in the same way that stone castles were built in Europe.

After the renovation in the 1960s, the only room in the entire West Block to remain nearly intact was the Prime Minister’s office. It’s located above the Mackenzie tower entrance and is reached by a private cast-iron circular staircase in the tower’s northwest turret. This office contains examples of fine craftsmanship, including a High Victorian Gothic stone fireplace. The fireplace has five beautifully carved panels featuring Canadian flora and fauna. As part of the recent renovation, we restored the fireplace and the other heritage elements.

Since a fire destroyed the original Centre Block in 1916, the West Block is the oldest Parliament building.

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