Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ottawa’s National Arts Centre to be transformed

January 13, 2015

A $110-million renovation will transform the grey bunker-like structure into an inviting presence on Confederation Square.

Architectural rendering of new North Lounge in renovated National Arts Centre, Ottawa. Image courtesy Diamond and Schmitt Architects.

Architectural rendering of new North Lounge in renovated National Arts Centre, Ottawa. Image courtesy Diamond and Schmitt Architects.

One of Canada’s “national treasures” has begun a $110-million transformation. The National Arts Centre on Confederation Square in the heart of Ottawa is being given a new tower entrance, a new atrium and undergoing substantial renovations.

The goal is to give the theatre a much more vital and inviting public presence in the capital. The complex was completed in 1969 and is a massive, Brutalist concrete structure typical of government buildings of the time.

This particular complex is shaped on the basis of a triangle and a hexagon.

Donald Schmitt, principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects, who are the lead designers for the renovations, says: “The NAC will be transformed from its intimidating and grey presence in the capital to a highly visible and welcome showcase for the very best performing arts for residents and visitors from across Canada and abroad.”


Peter Herrndorf, president and chief executive officer of the NAC, agrees: “The new entrance of the NAC will be warm and inviting, and will embrace the nation’s capital for the first time. Visitors have often remarked to me that it’s unfortunate the NAC turns its back on the city. With this new design we will finally face the city and its most important square.”

With a total of 107,600-square metres, the existing complex has four theatres and sits on a base structure that contains workshops, offices and a large underground parking garage. The roof of the base structure has garden terraces sloping down to the Rideau Canal.

The revitalization will add a new grand entrance on Elgin Street. The entrance will feature a hexagonal tower of glass and steel that will be able to display videos and live feeds of performances to those outside.

As well, the public atrium on the north of the building is being expanded at its upper level with a new lounge giving views of Parliament Hill, the Chateau Laurier hotel, the canal and Confederation Square. The renovation will also expand an event space known as the Panorama Room, increasing its capacity from 225 people to 600.

Other improvements under way will enhance the building’s accessibility, reconfigure the mechanical and electrical systems and bring it to LEED standards. Mandatory seismic upgrades are also being done on the portions of the existing building that support the new construction.

Diamond and Schmitt’s engineering design team includes Fast + Epp (structural), Crossey (mechanical and electrical), Parsons (civil) and Halsall (building envelope). Other consultants include Fisher Dachs (theatre), Threshold (acoustics), LMDG (code) and Vermeulens (costing).


Existing National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Existing National Arts Centre in Ottawa.



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