ERA Architects

National Arts Centre, Ottawa

Situated in the heart of the nation’s capital on Confederation Square, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre (NAC) displays a rigorous and robust geometric order in the Brutalist style, evoking an image of a fortress for the arts. Built between 1964 and 1969 as one of the federal government’s centennial projects, the NAC was designed by Fred Lebensold of the Montreal-based architecture firm, Affleck, Desbarata, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise (later Arcop). The structure offers a bold, powerful expression of modern Canadian identity.

In 2014, the NAC Rejuvenation project was announced in anticipation of Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017. The transformation included improved spaces for performance, new wings for audience and presentation events, and a new entrance on Elgin Street with a glazed addition wrapping around the north side of the complex. To align the geometry of the original architecture with the contemporary addition, a marquee tower was designed to mark the new entrance, revitalizing the NAC’s presence along Elgin Street.

ERA served as Heritage Conservation Advisor for Diamond Schmitt Architects on the project, developing a Heritage Conservation Approach report, which outlined the architectural, historical, and cultural significance of the building and identified heritage conservation goals and strategies to conserve its significance.

The core of this approach revolved around preserving the distinct and dramatic features of the exterior and interior.

The rejuvenated NAC establishes new transparency with the city, enhancing its connection to the surrounding symbolic landscape of Confederation Square. The NAC project has both enhanced and sustained the heritage significance of the building, providing an excellent example of thoughtful and innovative heritage conservation planning.