Government Conference Centre
Various Projects


Situated next to Ottawa's Rideau Canal, across the street from the Chateau Laurier Hotel and a stone's throw away from Parliament Hill's East Block, the Government Conference Centre is a key historic building in the downtown area.

The building, originally a railway station, became the Conference Centre in 1969, reserved specifically for government-hosted events and is currently designated as a Classified Heritage Building. The Indiana limestone walls and Doric columns "in antis", facing Rideau Street and the canal, hide a modern steel frame. The barrel and groin vaulted ceiling, arched "thermal" windows, hollow Corinthian columns, and Roman travertine walls evoke the Great Hall of the Roman Baths of Caracalla and similar to (the now demolished) New York Penn Station.

Government Conference Centre
Various Projects


  • The Government Conference Centre, due to its age, function and heritage status, requires significant renovations and retrofits in order to protect and maintain heritage character, original detailing and design intent, while meeting new requirements for building use and life safety. Robertson Martin Architects has participated, over the past decade, in many projects to improve this stately landmark, as follows:
  • Complete phased heritage wood window inventory and conservation. Existing conditions were measured and exact details were drawn for various window types. Categories of conservation, based on U.S. Parks Service notations, were applied to window inventory. Specifications for specialized wood epoxy consolidant, epoxy repair, dutchmen and, in limited cases, window element replacement were developed. Reviews of interventions were completed by Heritage Conservation Directorate (HCD).
  • Complete masonry exterior surveys and targeted conservation. Using crane bucket lifts, the entire building masonry exterior was examined and documented. Damage and crack patterns were mapped on façade drawings for analysis. Thermographic survey of exterior revealed hidden defects and heat loss. Extensive masonry condition report was produced with associated budget costing. Presentation of findings to HCD and PWGSC.
  • Seismic Investigation, Analysis and Remedial Concept Design. On the basis of above report, the building was analysed for seismic performance. With assistance from specialty contractors, sample openings in heritage fabric were produced; microscopic cameras were inserted into voids and findings documented, strength of mortar and masonry were measured and construction joints and details were analysed. Using state of the art ELFEN software for ‘discreet element analysis’, the entire building was modeled and subjected to simulated seismic loadings. Remedial concept designs were produced for critical areas with associated budget costing. Presentation of findings to HCD and PWGSC.
  • Second floor (old section) Exiting Study and Renovation. Analysis of existing configurations discovered serious Building Code violations. The challenge was to upgrade the building with the least amount of intervention to historic building fabric. Renovations included extensive HVAC modifications, fire protection upgrades, door and hardware replacements and electrical design.
  • South Canopy Redesign. The entrance canopy dating from 1970’s was posing a serious building envelope problem with extensive leakages. Project involved as-found drawings, documentation and building envelope investigation. The work included structural analysis of existing aluminum space frame for re-cladding and detailing with high performance glazing.
  • Acoustic Study of Main Hall. The Main Hall was modeled 3-dimensionally and options for the addition of acoustic treatment were tested for visual impact on the space. Options included decorative wall hung absorptive panels, curtains over the large arched windows and redesign of the existing translation booths.

Government Conference Centre
Various Projects

Goals / Challenges

  • With the site under constant use, many projects had to be developed and phased around events happening at the Government Conference Centre.
  • Large and small projects required careful management and input from all stakeholder groups throughout design and implementation.
  • Tight schedules and quality expectations of tenants and users were always met with detailed documents and quality design. The scale of some assignments and required deadlines required managing larger teams.
  • In the absence of an overall heritage master plan for the facility, a constant challenge was/is to assess, plan and design projects to limit impacts to heritage character. Answering to and negotiating the competing interests of building users and managers versus heritage interests is especially challenging.
  • With multiple completed assignments, RMA has built up a sizeable record of documents and history with this very large facility; this holistic understanding is especially valuable to serving client needs.
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