Latest progress on the Centre Block project
Work is underway to restore and modernize the Centre Block, the most iconic and impressive of the Parliament Buildings. Today, the Centre Block is a busy construction site with lots of activity inside and out.
View the Hill Cam to see what’s happening outside in real time.
On this page
We have unveiled preliminary concept designs for the Centre Block.
Take a look at the architectural drawings and our vision for the Centre Block and Parliament Welcome Centre design.
Parliament Welcome Centre
We are expanding the underground Parliament Welcome Centre to provide a more welcoming experience for visitors. It will also provide additional space for parliamentary functions. The new centre will span the length of the Centre Block, connecting it to the East and West Blocks on either side.
In spring 2020, we began digging down into the bedrock in front of the Centre Block, removing the rock and making space to build the new underground structure. As of June 2021, the contractor had removed more than 16,000 truckloads of rock.
Vaux Wall removal
To allow excavation to begin, we took apart the Vaux Wall, which was the stone retaining wall that flanked both sides of the stairway leading to the Centre Block. The Vaux Wall is named for the famous landscape architect Calvert Vaux, who also co-designed the city of New York’s Central Park. Vaux designed the plan for the public grounds on Parliament Hill in the 1870s.
We carefully labelled each stone and recorded where it lay, then took the wall apart and cleaned the pieces. The stones will be in storage until it is time to re-build the wall.
The Centre Block building
Preparing the interior of the building
After we carefully uninstall heritage elements, such as stained-glass windows, wood panelling and marble in office spaces and the linen ceiling in the House of Commons Chamber, to ensure they are safe, we will remove interior finishes and bring parts of the building down to their bare bones. This step is called “demolition and abatement.”
The “demolition” refers to removing interior finishes, like floors, ceilings and walls. “Abatement” refers to identifying, segregating and disposing of any hazardous materials.
Work is underway throughout the building, but not all areas will be demolished or abated to the same degree. The majestic spaces in the main public areas, for example, the Senate Chamber, the House of Commons Chamber and the Hall of Honour, will receive careful attention. Important heritage and architectural elements will either be removed and stored or protected and preserved in place while construction continues around them.
Protecting heritage elements
When the building was cleared in preparation for construction, we removed all of the artwork and decorations that were not physically part of the building. In addition, we are now in the process of removing other items that were attached to the building, but can be removed, like chandeliers and heritage flooring. All of these elements are carefully put into crates and sent to storage, where they will remain until construction is complete and they can be returned to the newly renovated spaces.
Heritage elements that cannot be removed, such as carvings and murals, will stay in their current location and are being covered and protected.
Safeguarding the Library of Parliament
The Library of Parliament in the Centre Block was renovated from 2002 to 2006 and will require some maintenance and upgrades before reopening. Due to the extensive renovations taking place outside its doors, it will remain closed for the duration of the Centre Block project. While some items from its collection were relocated to Library branch locations across the Parliamentary Precinct, most of its collection is now housed in the Library’s facility at 45 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard in Gatineau, Quebec.
The branch of the Library of Parliament at 125 Sparks Street was renovated between 2017 and 2018. It is operating as the interim main branch while the Centre Block is closed.
Once the Centre Block and the new Parliament Welcome Centre are completed, the Library in the Centre Block will reopen and the Visitor Experience Program will return to the Centre Block.
Protecting from earthquakes
The Centre Block is located in an active earthquake zone. Its original structure does not provide sufficient protection against earthquakes. To meet modern seismic standards, the building needed to be made safer and more resilient.
The least expensive and most effective solution that avoids harming the building’s heritage fabric is base isolation. Base isolation involves separating the Centre Block from the Canadian Shield foundation and placing it on more than 500 base isolators, which essentially act as large shock absorbers.
We are using base isolation technology to ensure that the Centre Block and the Peace Tower can meet the required building code. They are being retrofitted to withstand a magnitude 6.0 earthquake. Read more about how we are preparing the Centre Block to withstand earthquakes.
Creating a digital map
We created a digital model of the entire Centre Block building. Information about the building is recorded and digitized into what is referred to as a building information model (BIM). The BIM helps everyone involved in the project understand and keep track of the work that has been done and the work that remains to be done.
The BIM includes databases, photographs and reports that capture information about the various building elements and turn it into a 3D model.
We worked with Carleton University’s Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) to create a 3D model that shows where all the building’s components and systems are located. These include elements like light fixtures, walls, wiring, ductwork and plumbing.
The BIM supports the design process and helps in planning construction. We continue to work with the design team to improve the model and ensure that it captures the different states of the Centre Block as the work progresses. The details about the new mechanical, electrical, ventilation, plumbing and other systems we install in the Centre Block will all go into the BIM. This will make it much easier to service and maintain the systems for years to come.
Video: Construction update
Watch this video to see the work being done on the Centre Block to restore and modernize this Canadian icon. We released the video in spring 2021. It includes an update on the project and work completed up to winter 2020.
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