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

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 February 24, 2021, the contractor had removed more than 9,290 truckloads of rock.

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)

Enlarged image of excavation for the Parliament Welcome Centre as seen from the West Block tower

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 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.

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)

Enlarged image of two workers pack large stones onto skids

Workers preparing 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.

See how we carefully removed the retaining wall in front of the Centre Block (click to see the video)

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.

Enlarged image of the interior of a building with the ceilings, flooring, walls and plaster removed

The 6th 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

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.  

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

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

Enlarged image of stairs and railings covered by plywood

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

Enlarged image of a worker passing a lamp from a huge chandelier to another worker

Workers carefully dismantling the heritage chandelier that hung in the Senate Chamber (click to view enlarged image)

Enlarged image of 2 workers in protective equipment removing a stained-glass window from a window frame

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

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

Workers removing the painted linen ceiling of the House of Commons Chamber (click to view enlarged image)

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.

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)

Enlarged image of the exterior of a Gothic-style building

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

The design

The schematic design is one of the first steps of a construction project, where the architects and the client work together to determine the project requirements and goals to develop a construction drawing. The schematic design provides a general overview of the project's basic features and construction cost estimates.

In the case of the Centre Block project, it represents a massive endeavour. There are numerous aspects to consider, including the heritage nature of the building, the state it is in, the many upgrades it requires and the various players involved. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is working closely with parliamentary partners, namely the Senate, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament.

We will keep external stakeholders, like the National Capital Commission, the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism informed.

These engagements are essential to deliver a building that meets the needs of a modern Parliament and that will still be relevant in 100 years.

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. 

PSPC 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. PSPC and the design team continue to improve the model to 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.

Related links

Date modified: