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Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament


“This fourth side of Parliament must include what was left out of the building of the 1860s — the central role of Indigenous peoples in the place we now call Canada,”

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After the billions of dollars already committed to refurbishing top sites on Parliament Hill, the $500 million project to redo the south side of Wellington Street seems like an afterthought.

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But that’s not the way to look at it, according to John Ralston Saul, the honorary chairman of the jury that will select a winning bid next week.

“This fourth side of Parliament must include what was left out in the 1860s building – the central role of Indigenous peoples in the place we now call Canada,” he said during a recent public unveiling of designs submitted by six teams of architects. . “What’s at stake is not a building on Wellington Street, it’s the completion of Parliament Square.”

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Saul was referring to the Indigenous peoples’ space that will be at the heart of the renovated block, which is surrounded to the east by Metcalfe Street, to the west by O’Connor Street and to the south by the Mall of Sparks Street.

Indigenous groups are developing the former US Embassy site at 100 Wellington Street, as well as the CIBC building at 119 Sparks Street.

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The six teams of architects compete to develop the remaining nine buildings on the block.

The competition was launched at the start of the pandemic and a panel of 25 independent judges last December revealed its shortlist of six teams. Meaning competitors were fleshing out their plans for the Wellington Street block during the trucker occupancy.

Yet at last week’s unveiling there was no reference to either the impact of the pandemic or the security requirements highlighted by the occupation. It is likely that the architects were simply reflecting the competition rules. In an earlier phase of the competition, applicants were allowed, anonymously, to seek advice from procurement managers. According to the tender documents, a potential bidder requested:

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“The reference to the pandemic is notably absent in the RFQs (request for qualification). Will competitors be asked to consider their design concepts in the context of a post-pandemic world and the anticipated impacts on the nature of work? »

The answer: “This aspect is not taken into account at this stage.”

It is possible that these omissions will be corrected during the next phase of the project, which will see detailed negotiations between the government and the winning design team.

“After the design competition ends, the design concepts will continue to evolve and be refined,” said Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesperson Michèle LaRose in response to a question from this newspaper. “Throughout this process, PSPC, in close collaboration with parliamentary partners, will continue to assess the impacts of a post-pandemic environment and security considerations to ensure the design meets the needs of Parliament. ”

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Maybe the long delay influenced things. This project, dubbed Block 2, is part of the much larger government plan to modernize most of the 35 main government-owned buildings in the Parliamentary Precinct. The centerpiece of this multi-billion dollar effort, the ongoing revitalization of Center Block, is not expected to be completed until 2030.

By the time the Block 2 renovations are complete, in an uncertain number of years, worries about pandemics and law-breaking protesters may well have faded. Yet taxpayers would be reassured to know that these risks have at least been recognized by the designers.

The six artists’ sketches exhibited last week reveal structures that promote the mixing of crowds in open spaces on either side of the Indigenous Peoples’ Space, and in common spaces inside. The block itself is to be part of a network of parliamentary buildings that form a campus-like setting.

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The Block 2 competition shares characteristics of other federal government large-scale procurements, ranging from military equipment to information technology. The project was launched long after it became apparent that most of the buildings were unusable. The bid documents note that half of the buildings – including the famous Four Corners and Birks buildings – are in a condition “requiring major innovation” and are mostly vacant.

Some structures are correct. The Valor Building (formerly The Promenade) at 151 Sparks, for example, and the former Bank of Nova Scotia building, which houses the staff of the Library of Parliament. The successful contractor will be expected to complete the multi-year project while allowing bureaucrats and parliamentarians in these locations to continue working.

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The six shortlisted teams were asked to exercise discretion over which buildings to demolish and upgrade. The facilities, which will include parliamentary offices, meeting rooms and other elements, will be interconnected.

Here is the advice they received in the RFQ document: “The objective of the current project is to provide a coherent design solution and redevelop the site into an efficient integrated complex of buildings. The project will include appropriate rehabilitation and modernization of aging and underutilized buildings, and will maximize the development capacity of the site.

Here is how the teams interpreted this intentionally vague orientation:

Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament
Wilkinson Eyre (London, UK) in association with IDEA Inc. Photo by Zeidler Architecture Inc. (Toron /.jpg
Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament
Watson MacEwen Teramura Architects in joint venture with Behnisch Architekten Photo by Wilkinson Eyre (London, United K /.jpg
Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament
Provencher Roy + Associates Architects Inc. Photo by Watson MacEwen Teramura Architec /.jpg
Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament
Zeidler Architecture Inc., in association with David Chipperfield Architects Photo by Provencher Roy + Archi Associates /.jpg
Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament
Diamond Schmitt Architects, in joint venture with Bjarke Ingels Group, KWC Architects and ERA Architects Photo by NEUF Architects (Ottawa, Canada) /.jpg
Six plans to redo the core of Wellington Street across from Parliament
NEUF Architects, in joint venture with Renzo Piano Building Workshop Photo by Diamond Schmitt Architects (Toro /.jpg

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