• By: OLM Staff

Ottawa’s new kid on the icon block

Rising out of the east bank of the Rideau canal, just a shadow’s cast from The Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa – like a giant B-movie, gently marauding clam – ballooning like the croaking of an amphibious swollen throat and jowl – wedged in like a ‘Day The World Stood Still’, out of this world, invasion saucer crash jammed into the side near to the base of the Westin Ottawa Hotel – It is audaciously wonderful, brash, attention demanding and not a bird or a plane but you must look up! It is the spanking new, crystal geodesic-like, giant jewel of a façade of the new Ottawa Convention Centre. I have heard it described as a snow globe but really, when you think of winter in Ottawa – any reminder of snow, even shaken around is enough to make you want to hide your ears low below your coat collar. All the same it is a fitting description.

Who knew it landed smack in the middle of the Capital with a Culture Creed? That creed boasts, “Ottawa Convention Centre Culture is defined by a singular focus on realizing our Vision of “Inspired People Creating Extraordinary Events”… and by living our Shared Commitments whereby the full potential and ambitions of our Colleagues and Guests are achieved. The hallmarks of our Culture are strong and responsible leaders, empowered Colleagues and loyal Guests.” Now that is impressive. Makes me want to just race around the spaces to feel that energy and meet those wonderful expressions of fresh existence. This includes a much sought after LEED Silver certification and meeting the requirements of the AODA’s (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) Accessible Customer Service Standard. This is part of the steps toward universal inclusion as implemented by the Ontario government which came into force in January 2008. This is an ongoing commitment to inclusion of all individuals with disabilities throughout the province by the year 2025.

The stunning statistics aside Ottawa is a city that is simply does not have to go begging for breathtaking natural and urban vistas. There is no need for a spectacular skyscraper filled skyline. The views from the inside of the seven story high interior will more than impress any visitor even if for thee few moments out in the atrium they might be afforded on breaks from the ever important itineraries of thee all important conventions that will regularly populate the centre. It would be to the advantage of the centre if the general public were allowed to enjoy the open area for other activities like concerts or a snack or some other such distraction from the urban (Well it is Ottawa but…) hustle and bustle. That would be so neat. Imagine sipping a favorite fancy coffee and enjoying a light snack and looking out on the city lights at night on and evening out or stopping in at lunch for a noon hour concert? Facilities like the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto offer concerts in the upper lobby with great views of the city; just a muse of a thought.

In that great big city just down the road, near the lake there juts out into the asphalt divide that is Bloor Street a geometric set of inspiring shards protruding as part of the new addition and entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum. Whatever your thought may be about this set of errant, sharp points they do command attention as you look down the canyon of that street. Now Ottawa has a similar attention grabbing and daring assault not only on one of its streets but also on the architectural scene in a city that can already boast a myriad of great architectural adventures by its own architectural daredevils. This thanks to the centre’s architectural explorer Ritchard Brisbin, director of BBB Architects and the manifestation of the adventure by PCL Constructor’s Graham Bird.

Once upon a time Ottawa entertained conferences in its former Congress Centre, bland, flat and effortlessly dull. It barely affected a blink of an eye and was far from pedestrian friendly or inviting, all that concrete and no relationship to its natural surroundings. It was more related to the concrete mass it was lodged in than the beauty of the area of the Rideau Canal that sits immediately to the west.

The expanse of glass that is the façade of the new centre is a perfect venue for a spectacular lighting display. A future Nuit Blanche like projection, (or some other similar festival) or installation, could illuminate that glass structure in an unforgettable show of artistry and appreciation. What a focal point that could be. Why stop there? – illuminate the brash thing all year round like the CN Tower or the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls. Ready for the rest of this twenty first century my question is is Ottawa as ready? A city often seen as barely ready for prime time audacity like the new centre may be just the wake up alarm of, ‘it’s okay to let’em know your there’! Only time can tell.

This building is a grand gesture and will no doubt be the talk as one of the city’s new faces for many years to come. Like the bravery and bravado of the many spectacular buildings of Montreal’s, once so grand Expo67 buildings (later Man And His World) similar bold and swaggering structures have lead to much kind, and not so kind, chatter in other great cities. The new Ottawa Convention Centre seems to have all that is needed to stand the test of time and become just as much bragged about, shown off and visited as any stand out architecture anywhere in the world. If you’ve been in the centre of town you have seen it, it won’t let you miss it! If you are planning to visit step inside and try it on for size.  See the city from one of its best new berths. Like views from the London Eye (albeit on a much smaller scale) and those enjoyed from Mount Royal, The Circle Line cruise in New York City and from the Toronto Islands there is a new noisy kid in your town playing with the big dogs and demanding your attention. Check it out!