Grimshaw, Partisans, Foster + Partners and more in the running for a major mixed-use project opposite Ottawa’s Parliament Hill

Block Party

Grimshaw, Partisans, Foster + Partners and more in the running for a major mixed-use project opposite Ottawa’s Parliament Hill

A view of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill from across the Ottawa River in Quebec. ( Dennis Jarvis/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0)

The Government of Canada has officially launched an international design competition seeking firms to breathe new life into Ottawa’s Block 2, a roughly 108,000-square-foot redevelopment zone facing Parliament Hill, comprised of twin vacant parcels and 11 existing buildings of varying sizes. While some of the buildings in question are heritage-listed, all are underutilized and ripe for revitalization.

With the announcement that a design competition seeking transformative mixed-use reimaginings of Block 2 is officially a go and endorsed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the 12 qualifying firms tapped by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to participate in the process have also been revealed. Per a press release issued by PSPC, the firms, which garnered the highest evaluated scores of the applications received during a Request for Qualification (RFQ) process, have been formally invited to submit initial design concepts as part of the competition’s first phase. A multidisciplinary competition jury, organized in association with the RAIC, will review the submissions and form a shortlist of six design proposals to move on to the second stage.

The competition longlist—shared in full at the bottom of this page—is a blockbuster one, for sure, and a hefty number of familiar names are either leading the dozen teams or serving as collaborative partners. Canadian firms are well represented as all 12 teams include at least one domestic partner, with all of them hailing from either Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal. Among them: Partisans, BDP Quadrangle, Diamond Schmitt Architects, Provencher Roy + Associés Architectes Inc., and KPMB, with the latter two comprising the only single-firm teams in the competition. The handful of competing teams led by non-Canadian firms (with Canadian partners) include the New York office of British practice Grimshaw Architects, Melbourne’s Hassell Ltd., and WilkinsonEyre and Hopkins Architects, both headquartered in London. Other non-Canadian firms of note appearing on the team line-ups are Foster + Partners, Bjarke Ingels Group, David Chipperfield Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, Behnisch Architekten, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

“The site facing Parliament Hill is of national significance, and the building program includes many issues critical to society today: urban revitalization, heritage integration, cultural reconciliation, sustainability and the 21st‑century workplace,” said Peter Ortved, an architect and professional advisor for the RAIC. “A competition is sure to draw out the best responses.”

a highlighted block of ottawa, canada, across from parliament hill
The Block 2 redevelopment area in Ottawa. (Courtesy PSPC)

Bounded by Wellington, Sparks, Metcalfe, and O’Connor streets, the redevelopment site sits firmly within Canada’s Parliamentary Precinct and will involve a mix of building restoration/modernization projects and new construction that will ultimately, per PSPC, “transform this mix of aging buildings into an innovative complex that will create a balance between heritage, accessibility, security and sustainability.”

Central to the $356 million redevelopment of Block 2 is the creation of new office space for the Senate and House of Commons while work is underway at other outdated buildings within the Parliamentary Precinct, along with a design scheme that allows “for the future consolidation of parliamentary accommodations, including space for the Library of Parliament, into Crown-owned assets” according to PSPC. The agency serves, among other things, as the central purchasing agent and property manager for the Canadian government’s various agencies and departments.

As noted in the press announcement, the preservation of the area’s historic streetscape will be integrated into the sweeping redevelopment work, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Space, located within the Parliamentary Precinct, “stands independently from the design competition” and all construction/renovation work will “honour and respect the significance of this site.”

Per The Architects Journal, the dozen longlisted teams will each receive just shy of $100,000 while the six shortlisted finalists, to be announced later this year, will receive roughly $137,000 to further hone their proposals. The winning team will be bestowed with a prize amounting to over $187,000 US dollars.

  • Architecture49 (Ottawa) in joint venture with Foster + Partners (London) in association with DFS Architecture & Design (Montreal)
  • BDP Quadrangle (Toronto) in joint venture with Herzog & de Meuron (Basel, Switzerland)
  • Diamond Schmitt Architects (Toronto) in joint venture with Bjarke Ingels Group (New York), KWC Architects (Ottawa), and ERA Architects (Toronto)
  • Grimshaw Architects (New York) in association with Daoust Lestage Lizotte Stecker (Montreal)
  • Hassell (Melbourne) in association with Partisans (Toronto)
  • Hopkins Architects (London) in association with CORE Architects (Toronto)
  • KPMB Architects (Toronto)
  • NEUF Architects (Ottawa) in joint venture with Renzo Piano Building Workshop (Paris)
  • Provencher Roy + Associés Architectes (Montreal)
  • Watson MacEwen Teramura Architects (Ottawa) in joint venture with Behnisch Architekten (Boston)
  • WilkinsonEyre (London) in association with IDEA (Ottawa)
  • Zeidler Architecture (Toronto) in association with David Chipperfield Architects (London)