Restoring and modernizing the West Block

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The West Block has been restored and modernized to meet the current and future needs of 21st century Parliamentarians while respecting its roots in the 19th and early 20th centuries, long beloved by visitors to Parliament Hill. Restoration began in 2011 under the government’s Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct with the West Block emptied out, becoming the temporary home to a small army of stone masons and carvers, architects and engineers, cabinet makers and woodcarvers, sculptors and more.

A major part of the plan is to restore and modernize Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. In order for that to happen, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) created interim spaces for the House of Commons and the Senate to function while the Centre Block is being rehabilitated over the coming years.

The West Block now includes the interim House of Commons, a glass-roofed structure built into its courtyard, which also gives the building 50% more usable space. The West Block is a greener, fully accessible and barrier-free building with modern broadcast facilities to bring the workings of Canada’s democracy closer to Canadians.

Visit our West Block photo gallery to see before and after pictures of the building’s transformation.

West Block features

The West Block has been fit-up with:

  • View enlarged image of a large room with stadium-style seating under construction.
  • View enlarged image of a large room with unfinished pine desks.
  • View enlarged image of a worker standing in the basket at the end of a hydraulic crane checks lights attached to a metal supporting structure.

The West Block glass roof and House of Commons

The glass structure crowning the interior courtyard of the West Block creates an impressive ceiling for the interim House of Commons Chamber. The soaring roof is supported by 20 steel columns that rise up like giant trees surrounding the multi-level room. The Chamber itself includes more seating for Member of Parliaments, a fully accessible public viewing area and modern broadcast facilities.

Its glass and aluminum ceiling has mechanical louvers to control the level of light in the Chamber. Natural light is evenly dispersed, helping reduce lighting requirements. In the winter, the heat collected at roof level is captured and recirculated to warm other areas, making the building more energy efficient.

The Chamber also features LED lighting, which will help save energy and reduce the government’s carbon footprint. PSPC is also targeting Green Globes and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certifications through the implementation of various sustainability measures.

  • View enlarged image of a person walking on a glass roof.
  • View enlarged image of a man in a hardhat and reflective vest working on mechanical parts.
  • View enlarged image of the façade of a heritage stone building with a green copper roof. Above the façade is a glass roof.
  • View enlarged image of an exterior view of a glass roof.
  • View enlarged image of a large courtyard with steel columns supporting its glass roof.
  • View enlarged image of an artist's rendering of the redesigned West Block building and courtyard infill roof.
  • View enlarged image of an artist's rendering of the House of Commons Chamber
  • View enlarged image of a large chamber with people sitting at chairs and desks.
  • View enlarged image of an artist's rendering of a cross-sectional view of the redesigned West Block building, including the House of Commons Chamber.

Drone footage of the West Block rehabilitation

Enjoy the breathtaking aerial images of the Visitor Welcome Centre, the West Block’s Mackenzie Tower and courtyard infill glass roof.

Transcript of the drone footage of the West Block rehabilitation video

Start of video.

(Throughout the video, aerial images shot from a drone are shown, and light music is played in the background.)

(High-angle shot of the Centre Block, followed by an overhead shot of Parliament Hill.)

(Overhead shot of the Centre Block, rising towards the top of the Peace Tower.)

Text on screen: Parliament Hill Centre Block

(Overhead shot of the West Block, showcasing its glass roof.)

(Medium shot of the West Block's glass roof, moving over its surface.)

(Wide shot of the West Block.)

Text on screen: Parliament Hill West Block

(Close-up shot of the Mackenzie Tower roof, circling the tower to the left.)

(Close-up shot of the Mackenzie Tower roof, spiralling downwards to the right.)

(Close-up shot of the Mackenzie Tower, moving downwards towards a window.)

(Close-up shot of the Mackenzie Tower roof, rising towards the top of the tower.)

Text on screen: West Block's Mackenzie Tower

(Vertical tilt over the construction site of the Visitor Welcome Centre.)

(High-angle view of the Visitor Welcome Centre construction site.)

Text on screen: Future site: Visitor Welcome Centre

(Public Services and Procurement Canada Wordmark.)

(Music stops.)

(Canada Wordmark.)

End of video.

Architecture and design of the West Block

West Block is designated a Classified heritage structure because of its important historical associations and architecture. It includes a number of heritage spaces that have kept their original appearance while being brought up to current standards. Other areas have been repurposed to add more space while also preserving the original detailing and finishes that make it one of the finest 19th century Gothic Revival buildings in the world.

The West Block plans and design were developed by Arcop and Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et Associés as a joint venture. The plans and interventions are reviewed by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office and the National Capital Commission's Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty.

  • View enlarged image of an artist's rendering of one of the committee rooms
  • View enlarged image of a room with a circular table.
  • View enlarged image of an artist's rendering of the foyer to the House of Commons Chamber
  • View enlarged image of an artist's rendering of the scrum area in the West Block's north wing

Restoration and modernization project

The West Block restoration and modernization work included:

Interesting facts

  • Almost half of the building’s 140,000 stones had to be removed, numbered and reinstalled.
  • About 19,000 stones were replaced.
  • Laser technology was used to clean the stone by vaporizing the contaminants and providing a uniformly clean surface.
  • Over 2,500 metric tons of stone were bought for the project.
  • More than 100,000 buckets of mortar were used, requiring 3,000 tons of sand.
  • 28 chimneys and 2 spires were dismantled and completely rebuilt.
  • 3,500 square metres of copper roofing and 2,600 square metres of glass were installed on the roof. More than 2,900 tons of asbestos-containing material was removed from the building.
  • 10,000 rock anchors were installed to strengthen the building’s ability to withstand earthquakes.
  • More than 1.4 million new bricks were laid inside the building to reinforce its structure.
  • At its peak, more than 200 masons worked on the building daily.
View enlarged image of the West Block's north towers before and after rehabilitation
View enlarged image of stone carvings on the interior wall of a building.
View enlarged image of a wood carving of a coat of arms above a doorway.
View enlarged image of three workers install ornate iron cresting on a copper roof.

Video: Improved accessibility in the Parliamentary Precinct

We are removing barriers in the century-old buildings on and around Parliament Hill. Watch the video to see how we have made the newly restored and modernized Government Conference Centre and West Block buildings more accessible for everyone.

Transcript of the Improved accessibility in the Parliamentary Precinct

Start of video.

(Light instrumental music is played in the background throughout the video.)

(Aerial shot of the buildings on Parliament Hill with super-imposed International Symbol of Access)

(Exterior shot of West Block building)

(Aerial shot of the Government Conference Centre)

(Voiceover says: )

Public Services and Procurement Canada is removing barriers in the century-old buildings on and around Parliament Hill.

(Footage of the interior of the Government Conference Centre.)

(A sign for an accessible elevator)

(Aerial shots of the West Block building during construction with scaffolding and construction equipment)

We are restoring and modernizing the buildings and improving access for everyone.

(A person in a motorized wheelchair is circulating down accessible ramps and through an accessible entrance.)

The newly built Visitor Welcome Centre provides the first-ever barrier-free public entrance to Parliament.

(A visually impaired person is walking with his cane, guided by another person, inside the Visitor Welcome Centre)

The interim Senate and the House of Commons Chambers include accessible seating on both the Chamber floors and public galleries

(Shot of the newly renovated Senate Chamber)

(A person in a motorized wheelchair moves into an accessible seating area in the gallery of the House of Commons)

(A person in a motorized wheelchair is looking at the House of Commons Chamber from the gallery)

(Shot of the Senate Chamber taken from the Chamber floor)

(Shot of accessible seating with accessible features inside the Senate Chamber)

(Close-up of a person lifting the arm of an accessible seat inside the House of Commons Chamber)

(Shot of walls of the corridor outside the House of Commons Chamber)

(Shot of a person in a motorized wheelchair exiting an elevator)

(Shot of a visually impaired person reading Braille signage on a sign next to a door)

(Close-up of the hand reading Braille signage)

New and restored spaces will have a barrier-free path of travel on all floors.

(A visually impaired person moving his cane on elevated dots on the floor indicating stairs)

(Close-up of a hand pushing an accessibility button to open a door)

(A person in a motorized wheelchair waiting while a washroom door is opened by a mechanical door opener)

(A person in a motorized wheelchair filling his bottle at an accessible water fountain)

(A person in a motorized wheelchair circulating on the gallery of the House of Commons Chamber)

(Aerial shot of Parliament Hill with accessibility symbols super-imposed over the building)

The changes to the buildings on the Hill are helping to create a more inclusive and accessible Canada.

(Music stops)

(Public Services and Procurement Canada Wordmark)

(Government of Canada Wordmark)

End of video.

Time lapse: Restoration and modernization of the West Block

This video shows nearly 4 years of restoration work at the West Block in just over a minute.

Transcript of the rehabilitation of the West Block time-lapse video

Start of video.

(The video does not contain narration.)

(Throughout the video, images are shown in a time lapse from daybreak to nightfall through the changing seasons from September 2012 to late summer 2016.)

(A wide shot of the West Block's west façade. The Centre Block's Peace Tower stands out prominently in the background.)

(2 seconds from the beginning, the camera zooms in towards the base of the West Block's Mackenzie Tower, where scaffolding is installed. The camera then sweeps from left to right.)

(5 seconds from the beginning, a general shot shows white tarps being installed over scaffolding next to a heritage building. There are trucks and a crane in operation.)

(11 seconds from the beginning, a long shot of the West Block's Mackenzie Tower and then a zoom-in on scaffolding being installed along the tower. People are working there. The streets adjacent to the building can also be seen, as well as traffic moving along the streets.)

(32 seconds from the beginning, a close-up of the West Block's Mackenzie Tower rooftop. The camera pans upwards as scaffolding is installed.)

(36 seconds from the beginning, a long shot of the West Block's Mackenzie Tower. The camera pans downwards as white tarps over scaffolding cover the tower and cranes operate on each side. Cranes are operating in the surrounding area of the building. A close-up of the work is captured in the following shot.)

(39 seconds from the beginning, a close-up of the work. The camera pans slightly from left to right.)

(40 seconds from the beginning, a wide shot of the West Block's west façade entirely covered by white tarps over scaffolding. Zoom-out shot of the West Block's Mackenzie Tower as scaffolding is removed.)

(43 seconds from the beginning, a close-up of the West Block's Mackenzie Tower rooftop. The camera pans downwards as scaffolding is removed.)

(46 seconds from the beginning, a close-up. The camera pans downwards as scaffolding is removed.)

(50 seconds from the beginning, a close-up. The camera pans from left to right as the white steel beams that will hold the glass roof of the House of Commons chamber, in the West Block's courtyard infill, are installed.)

(53 seconds from the beginning, the camera slowly zooms out to a wide-angle shot of the West Block, revealing a west façade nearing the end of its rehabilitation.)

(Canada Wordmark.)

End of video.

Video: Restoration of the West Block

Learn how 2 civil engineering students helped to manage this large project.

Transcript of the rehabilitation of the West Block—junior project manager video

Start of video.

(Waist shot—Public Services and Procurement Canada employees George Chaar and Alexis McMorran stand side by side, wearing personal protective equipment, with the Parliament Hill’s West Block construction site in the background.)

(Alexis McMorran states)

“Hi! I’m Alexis. I’m a third year Chemical Engineering student with the University of Ottawa.”

(George Chaar states)

“Hi, my name is George. I am a third year civil engineering student with the University of Ottawa.”

(Alexis McMorran states)

“And we’re Junior Project Managers on the West Block Rehabilitation project.”

(General shot—Camera pans up along a West Block tower)

(Waist shot—George Chaar stands in the West Block’s courtyard infill under construction)

(George Chaar states)

“One of the most prominent elements under way and by far my favorite aspect of the building is the House of Commons Chamber.”

(Overhead shot of time-lapse footage of the construction of the West Block’s courtyard infill)

(George Chaar states)

“Once complete, the newly renovated building will host the Chamber for the next ten years. This unique and perplex area will be covered by a triple-glazed dome with controls to manage sunlight levels, keeping the Chamber cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”

(General shot—Alexis McMorran stands in front of the intricate stone fireplace in the Prime Minister’s office, in the West Block’s Mackenzie Tower)

(Alexis McMorran states)

“One of my favourite parts of this project is the masonry. It’s the largest historical aspect  of the building and connects us to West Block’s past.”

(Close-up of stone carvings adorning the fireplace—Camera pans from left to right)

(Alexis McMorran states)

“We have several types of stone in the building, limestone, and Wallace, Potsdam, Nepean, and Berea Sandstone.”

(Close-up of a stone carving of a bird within the West Block—Camera pans from left to right)

(Alexis McMorran states)

“Most of the carvings are made of Berea, like this one.”

(General shot—Alexis McMorran stands in front of the West Block construction site)

(Alexis McMorran states)

“West Block is the largest masonry project in Public Work’s history. At its height, we had over 200 historical masons working.”

(Head and shoulders shot—George Chaar and Alexis McMorran stand on the West Block’s roof under construction, with the Peace Tower in the background)

(George Chaar states)

“Thanks for visiting West Block with us!”

End of video.

Project details

Here is a snapshot of the West Block rehabilitation project.

More information

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