Monday, June 1, 2009

111 Sussex Drive, part two

Here's part two of the series on the former Ottawa City Hall at 111 Sussex drive, in anticipation of Doors Open Ottawa next weekend.

In part one, we looked at the old building designed by Rother, Bland, Trudeau, and we left off at the courtyard behind the old building.

Today we'll look at the south-west part of the 1993 addition designed by Moshe Safdie and Associates (who also designed the National Gallery of Canada).

Below, we see the West block of offices, the East block reflected in it, and the walkway between them. The courtyard steps down in the foreground, with a water feature (the darker stone) not operational on that day in late April 2009.

The water feature comes out into a pond at the back (again, not filled in this photo). In the middle of the fountain are some sculptures, one of a polar bear balancing on a pyramid. In the foreground, we see a second walkway between the East and West sections of the building.

As we continue along the West side (to the left in the above photo), we come around to the glass hallway leading to the "new" council chambers, which replaced Whitton Hall (shown in part one) as City Council's official meeting room.

In the background, we see Unity Tower, controversial at the time of construction due to the perception of public funds going to what is effectively a functionless feature. (Two plaques at the base of the tower indicate, however, that it was paid for with donations) Originally, it was planned to also be covered in the beige precast panels and an observation deck at the top, but these plans were scuttled due to lack of funds, and consternation from neighbours worried about their privacy.

Here's an interior shot of door to the former "new" council chambers, called Victoria Hall (after the Queen), with the peaked roof of the vestibule visible through the glass roof of the hallway. The chambers have been remodeled to flatten the floor, which used to dip down. The feds also removed the fine custom crafted furniture--the Mayor's chair and podium are still on display in the Heritage building of the current City Hall on Laurier. The chamber is currently being used for the Oliphant commission, a.k.a the "Airbus Inquiry." Back when it was used as City Hall, councillors had their offices on the left, each with a balcony out to the hallway.

What look like balconies without railings on the exterior photo of the hallway are actually awnings to keep the hallway from becoming a greenhouse, as visible in this photo. You can also see the DFAIT headquarters, whose employees have spilled over into this building next door.

Looking back toward that section from the base of the pyramid, we see that the hallway has a slight curve to it.

Ending the hallway (or starting it, if you're just arriving), is the pyramid entrance. Through the windows, we can see that the columns surrounding are stuffed with boxes of files.

In the foreground is a sculpture that looks like a circle of metal birds reaching up; there's a second one on the other side of the front of the building. These were designed to sit in fountains, with jets of water shooting up through their centres. You can still see the water line at the feet. Unfortunately, the nozzles could never get aligned quite right, and the jets would end up spraying into the then-openable windows along the front of the building. So they ditched the fountain idea and left them as static installations.

At dusk, the hallway lights up and contrasts nicely with the dark blue sky. This view, not counting the old building in the background, reminds me a lot of Safdie's Art Gallery.

Tune in June 4 for the last installment (part 3) in the series on 111 Sussex. Also make sure to check out some of the 140 buildings (including this one) open for Doors Open Ottawa this weekend!


  1. I hadn't seen inside the old town hall before. It's surprisingly attractive, (or you've just focused on the good bits =).

    It's a pity that our current city hall doesn't have an equally dramatic look.

  2. What I hear is that the public spaces (hallways, foyers, etc.) are very nice, open, and bright, but the work spaces and cubicle farms are... less so.