Description of Historic Place
The Sir John Carling Building is a large modern building situated within the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa. The building consists of three distinct components arranged to create a simple, asymmetrical composition. Inter-connected by single-storey links, the three components include a central eleven-storey office tower flanked to the east by a three-story wing designed for special-processing tasks related to shipping and receiving, and to the west, by a one-storey cafeteria wing with a distinctive arched roof. Located at the top of a crest along the northeastern boundary of the Farm property, the Sir John Carling Building is in close proximity to Preston Street, Prince of Wales Drive and Dow’s Lake. The building is located within the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Sir John Carling Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Sir John Carling Building is associated with the national theme of the post-war expansion and consolidation of federal government services, specifically Canada’s national program of agricultural research. The Sir John Carling Building was designed and built to serve as the National Headquarters for the Department of Agriculture, and brought together administrators from different department divisions and branches into this new, modern facility. As part of the somewhat dispersed campus development of Agriculture Canada along the Carling Avenue periphery of the Central Experimental Farm, the Sir John Carling Building is also associated with the 1950 Greber Plan recommendation to develop campuses and nodes for federal government departments outside the central core area of Ottawa. The Sir John Carling Building was located on the Central Experimental Farm because the Plan called for additional buildings at the Farm.
The Sir John Carling Building is very good example of the modernist architectural style of the middle part of the 20th century. In its construction and design aesthetic, it is a transitional design influenced by the refined steel and glass curtain wall buildings of the 1950s International Style and the more robust, concrete buildings of the mid 1960s. A very good example of the work of Hart Massey particularly in terms of its scale, the building is composed of three simple, discreet volumes separated from the ground plane by recessed bases. The Sir John Carling Building is constructed of very good quality craftsmanship and materials as found in the sophisticated detailing of the precast concrete panels and brise-soleil and the rich palette of interior finishes used on the main tower’s ground floor.
The Sir John Carling Building is compatible with the mixed commercial character of the Booth and Preston Street valley, as well as the picturesque character of Dow’s Lake and the Central Experimental Farm owing to its scale, massing and the profile of the central tower. As the national headquarters for Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC), the Sir John Carling Building has both symbolic as well as visual landmark value and is familiar to residents of the city of Ottawa.
Sources: Don Macdonald and Julian Smith, Sir John Carling Building, Ottawa, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 03-116; Sir John Carling Building, Ottawa, Ontario. Heritage Character Statement 03-116.
The following character-defining elements of the Sir John Carling Building should be respected.
Its 1950s-1960s transitional design and its very good quality materials and craftsmanship as manifested in:
- the massing, which reflects the earlier 1950s International Style and consists of three separate, articulated volumes with recessed bases arranged to create a simple, asymmetrical composition;
- the use of distinct and separate volumes for each of the primary functions as seen in the central eleven-storey office tower, the three-storey wing for special-processing tasks related to shipping and receiving, and the one-storey cafeteria wing with its distinctive arched roof;
- the use of a robust exterior treatment consisting of deep precast concrete panels which is typical of the 1960s period;
- the sophisticated articulation of the precast concrete panels which incorporate perforated vertical precast brise-soleil on the east, west and south elevations, and create depth and shadows on the building surface;
- the recessed, glazed window walls on the main office tower’s ground floor which reflect the earlier 1950s International Style;
- the use of rustic limestone finish for the recessed base of the main office tower and field stone for the recessed bases of the cafeteria wing and the east wing;
- the well-resolved detailing and rich palette of interior finishes on the main office tower’s recessed ground floor including the large glass window walls with thin bronze mullions, bronze doors and fittings, dark granite wall slabs, as well as the use of wood in the main boardroom; and,
- the large, colourful, abstract mural by Canadian artist Takao Tanabe located on the back wall of the lobby area.
The building’s compatibility with the mixed commercial and picturesque character of its setting as evidenced in:
- its scale, massing and the profile of the central tower which are similar to the multi-storied buildings located in the Preston and Booth Street commercial node; and,
- its relatively isolated and unobtrusive location on top of a treed crest along the northeast boundary of the Central Experimental Farm, setback from surrounding streets and surrounded by an open, park-like landscape similar to the Dow’s Lake area.