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Health Care Centre

355 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2002/03/28

Exterior 3/4 photo.; Parks Canada  Parcs Canada, 2001, Geneviève Charrois.
Heath Care Centre, Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa, ON
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Other Name(s)

Health Care Centre
Former National Defence Medical Centre
Ancien centre médical de la Défense nationale

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1960/01/01 to 1961/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/11/04

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Health Care Centre is a modern nine-storey, brick building with a curved penthouse, flat roofs, and a large concrete entrance portico. Built between 1960 and 1961 using a cruciform plan, the building's four wings radiate outward from a central core and feature punched window openings, and end curtain walls. The Health Care Centre is located in eastern Ottawa, in an area characterized by several important medical complexes. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Health Care Centre is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values:

Historical value:
The Health Care Centre is the first and most comprehensive manifestation of the centralization and unification of the medical services in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1959. The construction of the Health Care Centre was instrumental in establishing this area in Ottawa as a medical campus and hospital complex.

Architectural value:
A large, modern building, the Health Care Centre was designed to be a state-of-the-art facility that could accommodate a complex functional program and optimize efficiency. The scale of the hospital made it one of the largest projects handled by the firm of Govan, Fergusson, Lindsay, Kaminker, Langley and Keenleyside Architects, incorporating leading edge concepts of privacy, communication and safety, as well as the latest systems and technology.

Environmental value:
The Health Care Centre is well known as the National Defence Medical Centre and as the hospital serving political VIPs within the city and the regional community. The institutional character of the building as a monolithic form in the landscape has been retained despite the removal of convalescent pavilion.

Geneviève Charrois, Health Care Centre, Canadian Forces Support Unit Ottawa, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 01-045.

Health Care Centre, Ottawa (Ontario). Heritage Character Statement 01-045.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Health Care Centre should be respected, for example:

Its role as an illustration of the centralization and unification of the medical services in the Canadian Armed Forces is reflected in this full service hospital's comprehensive design which accommodated a complex functional program and which incorporated the following four major developments in hospital design:

- the abandonment of large wards in favour of private rooms;
- a monolithic design that consolidated functions to reduce the lines of communication and optimize efficiency;
- the use of the pad and tower concept with clinical services grouped together on one or two floors and patients on the floors above;
- the use of double corridors with patient rooms on the outside emanating from centralized services.

The building's modern design sensibilities, competent craftsmanship and good quality materials as manifested in:
- the building's strong geometric composition which consists of a cruciform plan and radiating wing configuration, and a curved penthouse which are also associated with modern hospital design;
- the design of the vertical circulation core consisting of clusters of elevators;
- the use of the wing configuration and the partial curtain wall treatment at the end of the wings to allow light to enter the building;
- the offsetting of the opposing wings of the cruciform plan to facilitate way finding;
- the repetitive fenestration which consists of punched openings in a large brick mass;
- the use of high quality finishes in the public lobby area including terrazzo flooring and marble clad columns.

The character of the relationship between the building and the surrounding environment as evidenced in:
- the building's setback from the surrounding roadways which contributes to its monumental character;
- its proximity to neighbouring medical complexes and residential neighbourhood.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type



Health and Research
Hospital or Other Health Care Institution

Architect / Designer

Govan, Fergusson, Lindsay, Kaminker, Langley, Keenleyside



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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