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.

See what’s happening outside in real time: View the Hill Cam

On this page

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.

View enlarged image of construction equipment digging into rock in front of a heritage building.

Excavators digging down into the bedrock in front of the Centre Block (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of an aerial view of construction equipment digging into rock.

Excavation for the Parliament Welcome Centre as seen from the West Block tower (click to view enlarged image).

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.

View enlarged image of a stone retaining wall.

The retaining wall on Parliament Hill, known as the Vaux Wall, shown here before construction began on the Centre Block (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of two workers pack large stones onto skids.

Workers prepare stones from the Vaux Wall for storage (click to view enlarged image).

View the video: The Vaux Wall on Parliament Hill: How we removed and protected it

Watch how we carefully removed the retaining wall in front of the Centre Block (click to watch the video).

The Centre Block building

Preparing the interior of the building

We carefully removed 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. Then, 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.

View enlarged image of the interior of a building with the ceilings, flooring, walls and plaster removed.

The sixth floor taken down to its bones. The ceilings, flooring, walls and plaster have all been removed. Other areas of the building with more heritage elements in them will be kept more intact (click to view enlarged image).

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

To prepare for construction, all heritage assets were carefully removed, put into crates and then safely stored for the duration of the project. This includes:

  • murals
  • paintings
  • chandeliers
  • heritage flooring
  • windows

Heritage elements that cannot be removed were covered and protected. For example, we covered an ornate staircase in the House of Commons foyer to protect it.

View the video: Removing chandeliers from the Centre Block

Watch this video to see experts carefully removing the beautiful chandeliers in the Senate and House of Commons Chambers. They removed the chandeliers to protect and restore them (click to watch the video).

View the video: Removing the Crisp Murals from the Centre Block

Watch this video to see experts carefully removing the 100-year-old mural paintings within the House of Commons’ Reading Room. They removed the murals to protect and preserve them during the Centre Block project (click to watch the video).

View the video: Removing the Memorial Chamber stained glass windows

Watch how we carefully removed the Memorial Chamber’s stained glass windows for safeguarding (click to watch the video).

View the video: Sharlene Goveas: Protecting the Centre Block's valuable heritage assets

Watch how we protect heritage elements, such as carvings, murals and marble floors, while we work on the Centre Block (click to watch the video).

View the video: War paintings move out of Centre Block

Watch this video to see how we removed and restored the 8 war paintings that hung in the Senate Chamber for decades (click to watch the video).

View the video: Removing the linen canvas ceiling

Watch this video to see how experts carefully removed the linen canvas ceiling from the House of Commons Chamber to protect it (click to watch the video).

View enlarged image of stairs and railings covered by plywood.

Plywood protects an ornate staircase in the House of Commons foyer (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of a worker passing a lamp from a huge chandelier to another worker.

Workers carefully dismantle the heritage chandeliers that hung in the Senate Chamber. The huge chandeliers weigh 1,542 kilograms (3,400 pounds) each. The pieces have been crated and stored (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of 2 workers in protective equipment removing a stained glass window from a window frame.

Workers carefully remove the stained glass windows in the Memorial Chamber (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of 2 workers wearing protective equipment removing painted fabric from a ceiling and winding it onto large spool.

The ceiling of the House of Commons Chamber is decorated with painted linen. Workeres carefully remove the fabric and roll it up to protect it (click to view enlarged image).

Preparing the exterior of the building

A key aspect of the Centre Block project is restoring the building’s heritage masonry. Over the years, Ottawa’s extreme weather conditions deteriorated the masonry. About 35% of the building’s 400,000 stones must be removed for repair or replacement. To do this work safely, we will install scaffolding and tarping around the building. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Parliament.

Decorative tarps

We will install decorative tarps printed with a realistic image of the Centre Block. These types of tarps are known as a “trompe l'oeil,” which translates to “trick of the eye.”  We are installing the tarps to:

  • hide the visible impacts of construction activities
  • protect workers against the elements such as wind, rain, and snow
  • ensure visitors can continue to see the Centre Block

The image of the Peace Tower clock on the trompe l’oeil will be set to 11:45 a.m. This represents the start time of the ceremony in 1927 to inaugurate the Peace Tower.

We will begin installing the trompe l’oeil in spring 2022, starting with the north façade. We will then extend around the other façades of the building as the masonry work progresses.

View enlarged image of a conceptual drawing of the decorative tarp.

Conceptual drawing of the decorative tarp that will cover the scaffolding (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of a scaffolding covers the north façade of the Centre Block.

Photo of the north façade covered in scaffolding with a regular tarp. Masonry work already is underway on this section (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of a scaffolding with images of masonry walls super-imposed over the tarps that cover the scaffolding.

A mock-up of what the trompe l’œil could look like when it is installed (click to view enlarged image).

Safeguarding the Library of Parliament

The Library of Parliament in the Centre Block was renovated from 2002 to 2006 but requires 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 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.

View enlarged image of the interior of the Centre Block's Library of Parliament.

The interior of the Centre Block's Library of Parliament (click to view enlarged image).

View enlarged image of the exterior of the Library of Parliament,  a Gothic-style building.

The exterior of the Library of Parliament (click to view enlarged image).

Protecting the Centre Block 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.

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.

View the video: Capitalizing on innovation

Learn about the 3D digital model of the Centre Block (click to see the video).

The BIM supports the design process and helps in planning construction. We continue to work with the design team to improve the model so 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, spring 2022

View the video: Construction update, spring 2022

See the work being done on the Centre Block to restore and modernize it (click to see the video).

Video: 2021 Centre Block project construction update

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