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National Arts Centre National Historic Site of Canada

53 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2006/11/27

General view of the National Arts Centre National Historic Site of Canada; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, W. Duford.
General view
Interior view of the National Arts Centre National Historic Site of Canada, showing the wall of the Theater lobby, 1985; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, R. Goodspeed, 2005.
Theater lobby
General view of the National Arts Centre National Historic Site of Canada; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, W. Duford.
General view

Other Name(s)

National Arts Centre
Centre national des arts
National Arts Centre National Historic Site of Canada

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1965/01/01 to 1969/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/03/14

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The National Arts Centre is a complex structure of irregular plan whose design is based on the triangle and hexagon, from the overall composition down to decorative details. The building houses several performance spaces, rehearsal halls, dressing rooms, a workshop and prop room, offices, restaurants, reception spaces and subterranean parking garage. Designed in the Brutalist style, the National Arts Centre is constructed of poured reinforced concrete and covered with precast panels of exposed Laurentian-granite aggregate concrete with a variety of textures. The visually dominant components of its irregular design are the three main performing spaces that rise above a series of terraces.

Heritage Value

The National Arts Centre was designated a national historic site of Canada because:
- it is an outstanding example of a performing arts centre in Canada for its overall design, its highly successful integration into its urban setting, its succession of interior spaces to create dramatic effect, its unique combination of performing spaces and the progressive designs of each one, and its integration of contemporary works of art as part of its design;
- it is an outstanding example of a building illustrating the positive consequences of Canadian federal policy on the performing arts during the second half of the 20th century, considered, in the words of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, as a "national institution";
- it is an example of state-of-the-art performing spaces and technology at the time of construction, in particular for the aesthetic and technical design of Southam Hall, which is an exceptional example of a medium-sized multi-purpose auditorium representing an inspired collaboration between architect and acoustician.

The National Arts Centre was both a major cultural as well as a major architectural achievement for the country. The structure, built in 1965-69 to designs by the architectural firm of Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold and Sise, reflects the rise of state support to the arts in the second half of the 20th century. It was built as part of the celebrations of for the one-hundredth anniversary of Confederation, and it was intended to herald the cultural achievements of the nation in the fields of the performing arts. The National Arts Centre is also a component of the Confederation Square National Historic Site of Canada.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Submission Report, Minutes, 2005.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its current siting, in relation to the Rideau Canal, Elgin Street, Laurier Avenue, Sapper’s Bridge, and the Confederation Square National Historic Site of Canada;
- its exterior volumes, composed of a pyramidal building-up of hexagonal shapes, masses which contain the interior spaces, and open terraces and planters;
- the open terraces, and their role as gathering areas and as linking spaces in the larger urban context;
- the richly treated concrete surfaces of the exterior;
- the interior disposition of spaces, including the performance spaces, administration and prop spaces, reception spaces, halls, and public parking;
- the finishing details, such as the types of wall and floor coverings, specially designed light fixtures, curtains, seating, sculptures, paintings, tapestries and other accoutrements especially designed for this building.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

2006/11/27

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Commerce / Commercial Services
Studio
Leisure
Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Community
Civic Space

Historic

Architect / Designer

Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold & Sise

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

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

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

11274

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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