Description of Historic Place
Located in Ottawa’s downtown, and occupying an entire city block, the East Memorial Building connected by a linking memorial colonnade, to its mirror image the West Memorial Building, is a monumental seven storey, smooth stone building. Composed of a low-pitch copper roof with dormer windows, a tall pavilion-roof corner tower, and tall narrow piers between the windows and stepped volumes at the building’s sides. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The East Memorial Building is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The construction of the East Memorial Building is one of the best illustrations marking the beginning of a new stage in Ottawa’s development as the Capital of Canada. The building completed the transition of Wellington Street from mixed small-scale residential and commercial use to monumental buildings housing government functions. The East and West Memorial Buildings are also major components in the comprehensive master plan developed for the capital by the internationally known planner and architect Jacques Greber. These buildings were erected as the federal government’s principal memorial to those killed during the Second World War.
One of the best designs by the Toronto architectural firm of Allward and Gouinlock, the East Memorial Building is an excellent example of Classical-Moderne design incorporating features developed in the 1930s and 1940s. The axial symmetry of the buildings’ siting recalls Beaux-Arts design principles, which are also evident in the interior planning, where major and minor axis corridors are arranged around lightwells. It is characterized by its monumental scale and massing, architectural design, its materials and its high quality craftsmanship. The building houses three mural paintings commemorating the world wars by noted Canadian artists: Charles Comfort, André-Charles Biéler and George Pepper.
The East Memorial Building along with the West Memorial Building establishes the character of both Wellington and Sparks streets, effectively defining the western extremity within the Parliamentary Precinct setting of Ottawa’s downtown core. The Memorial Buildings’ prominence in the urban context is expressed in their strong visual relationship with the Lyon Street colonnade, the built environment of Wellington and Sparks streets and the open modernist plaza to the west. Their monumental permanence appropriate to their memorial function contributes to the character of Wellington Street. Together with the memorial colonnade that links the buildings over Lyon Street they are a prominent Ottawa landmark.
Joan Mattie, West Memorial Building, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Report 92-01; East and West Memorial Buildings, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 94-83.
The following character defining elements of the East Memorial Building should be respected.
Its Classical-Moderne design, construction, materials and excellent craftsmanship as manifested in:
- its monumental scale and stepped massing constructed of steel and reinforced concrete clad in smooth-faced Indiana limestone with a plinth of Stanstead Granite from Québec, capped with a modernized version of the Chateau-Style streamlined low-pitched battened copper roof with dormer windows and tall corner tower with pavilion roof;
- its references to classical design seen in the subtle articulation of base, shaft and entablature, the stylized Greek fretwork and its Classical-Moderne elements, including stepped volume, flattened detail, tall shadow piers between windows, bas-relief masonry sculpture depicting Canadian iconography, and its overall austerity;
- the steel windows with horizontally-pivoted ventilators and the bronzework such as the entrance doors and geometric grillwork which is an important decorative element enlivening an otherwise austere exterior;
- the Classical Beaux-Arts organization of the interior along major and minor axes and its interior detailing and craftsmanship reflecting the hierarchical importance of the various spaces, and the use of quality materials such as marble cladding the floors and dados, its terrazo, quarry tile, and bordered linoleum flooring treatments, the lobby lightfixtures, the brass and enamel porcelain finish of the elevators, the brass hardware throughout the building, its woodwork elements, simple wood veneer doors, and washrooms with mint green structural glass or ceramic tiles, and plain tile flooring and commissioned murals.
The manner in which the monumental East Memorial Building establishes the character in its parliamentary precinct setting and defines the western extremity of Ottawa’s downtown core.