Victoria Memorial Museum Building Rehabilitation (Canadian Museum of Nature)

Joint Venture Architects:
Padolsky, Kuwabara, Gagnon Joint Venture Architects (PKG):
Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects, KPMB Architects, and Gagnon Letellier Cyr Ricard Mathieu Architectes

Project Architects:
Barry Padolsky & Louise McGugan

Completion Date:
2010

Project Overview:

The Victoria Memorial Museum in Ottawa was Canada’s first purpose-built national museum.  It was constructed between 1905 and 1911, on a 3.6 hectare park 1.6km south of Parliament Hill on the axis of Metcalfe Street in Ottawa.  It serves as a symbol of Canada’s early 20th century aspirations to be understood as a nation that excelled in learning, the sciences and art.  It was the original home of the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization and Canadian Museum of Nature.  The Parliament of Canada occupied the museum between 1916 and 1919 after the Centre Block of Parliament was destroyed by fire.  The building was designed by Dominion Chief Architect David Ewart.  It is a four storey Beaux Arts composition in neo-gothic “clothing”.  Its robust exterior appearance has been characterized as “Tudor Gothic” or “Scottish Baronial” in style.  Ewart referred to the design as “Free Gothic”.  The museum is a FHBRO “classified” property and a National Historic Site.
The VMMB Rehabilitation Project was a massive rehabilitation and restoration project.  Its scope included extensive spatial replanning to support the museum’s exhibition and visitor needs, seismic and building code upgrades, the replacing of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, asbestos removal, the introduction of a DBZ between exhibit galleries and exterior masonry walls, repair of significant masonry cracks, and restoration of the heritage fabric.  A key feature of the design is the addition of a 20 metre glass lantern that honours the demolished stone tower.  Located above the entrance, the lightweight, transparent addition acts as a “showcase” of the museum.  It encloses a new butterfly staircase to improve the museum’s public circulation system.

A new 25,000 s.f. south addition, partially below grade, contains workshops, laboratories, and a new shipping and receiving area.  The south addition with its green roof and paving is designed as an events space for up to 500 people.

Prior to the commencement of the VMMB Rehabilitation Project, BPA were the prime architectural consultants for the Victoria Memorial Museum Building Exterior Restoration.  This project involved major construction works over a 5 year period (1993-1997) during which the Canadian Museum of Nature was fully operational and open to the public.  The intent of the project was to stabilize and restore the VMMB’s exterior envelope as the first phase of the VMMB’s long-term rehabilitation program.

The project was awarded the prestigious Chicago Atheneum International Architecture Award, 2011; the OAA Design Excellence Award, 2011; and the City of Ottawa Urban Design Award, 2011.