Description of Historic Place
The Birks Building is situated on the north side of Sparks Street in the core of Ottawa’s central business district. Flanked by other high-rise buildings, the façade features a tripartite division consisting of a base storey, an intervening tier of five storeys and a capping storey. The five-bay brick façade features narrow piers that separate large windows and give a vertical emphasis. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Birks Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Birks Building is associated with the expansion and development of early 20th century Ottawa as expressed through purpose-built stores and office buildings. Selling luxury gifts, precious metals, and gems, Birks retail jewellery store catered to an elite clientele, including the Canadian and foreign governments.
The Birks Building is a good example of a structure whose details reflect modest stylistic references to the Beaux-Arts and Baroque. It is a very good example of a functional building in that it incorporates an innovative modern structural system which is clearly reflected through its exterior. It is constructed of reinforced concrete based on the Kahn system: steel members encased in concrete. This structure exhibits good quality craftsmanship and materials.
The Birks Building, on its unchanged site in the commercial core is compatible with Ottawa’s central business district and is familiar to residents.
Dana Johnson, Birks Building, 107 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 85-022; Rosenthal Building / Birks Building, 107 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 85-022.
The character-defining elements of the Birks Building should be respected.
Its Beaux-Arts style, very good functional design and good quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
-the vertical massing reflecting its structural system of steel encased in concrete;
-the symmetrical, five-storey facade with its tripartite division of a base storey, an intervening tier of five storeys and a capping storey divided by a row of balconies;
-the brick cladding;
-the Ionic columns marking the entrance, the Renaissance-inspired balconies and the balustrade.
The manner in which the Birks Building, on its unchanged site on Sparks Street, reinforces the commercial centre of downtown Ottawa and is a familiar landmark, as evidenced by:
-the building’s on-going relationship to its streetscape and surrounding buildings;
-its Beaux-Arts design and materials that maintain a visual and physical
relationship to adjacent structures in the commercial core of downtown Ottawa;
-its distinctive ‘Birks’ marquee that makes it recognizable to people in the core.