Ottawa-the national capital, often overshadows Ottawa-the place to live. In this photo essay, photographer Steve McCullough explores some of the architecture that – while not national treasures – help to give the city its unique style. While you’ll likely recognize many of the warehouses, office buildings and houses featured in this post, Steve uses his camera to bring out the extraordinary in the everyday.
All text and photos by Steve McCullough
City Centre Building (pictured above)
250 City Centre Avenue
Frequently voted the ugliest building in Ottawa, the City Centre is nonetheless a notable landmark. At the very least it makes for an unusually industrial presence in a town notable for its relative lack of industry. From certain angles and in certain light, this warehouse complex can be said to have a certain charm, but it remains a building that most residents of Chinatown and Hintonburg love to hate.
2915 Haughton St.
A product of the experimental sixties, the Belltown Dome (built in 1966-7) strikes a stark contrast to the banal and rectangular design of most public skating rinks. Featuring semi-geodesic construction, a dramatic metal exoskeleton, and sweeping interior aesthetics, this building now languishes all but unknown outside of its quiet corner of Brittania.
85 Glebe Ave.
This Glebe landmark was built in 1913, and was designed by renowned local architect W.E. Noffke. Noffke was involved in the design of hundreds of Ottawa buildings, including a number of houses in this distinctive Spanish Colonial Revival style. Unlike many similar buildings, the Powell House still retains its red tile roof, which makes its southern style seem all the more strange in the ice and snow of Ottawa winter.
This graceful building is rendered distinct by its pleasing shape and proportion, but also because it is flanked by much larger and decidedly more utilitarian modern versions. The greenhouse was built in the 1930s, but was originally located in in Major’s Hill Park. It has housed the Experimental Farm’s tropical plant exhibition in its current location since 1978.
This strikingly contemporary design offers an interesting contrast to the staid homes of the Civic hospital area. The lot it sits on was sold off by the city in 2002, having been deemed all but unbuildable. The architects thus not only delivered an ambitious and pleasing modern design, but maximized the use of a strange, small triangular lot.
Edward Drake Building
Long-time residents of Ottawa South still refer to this as the “CBC Building”, as it was the headquarters of the national broadcaster from its completion in 1964 until 1997. It is currently the headquarters of the Communications Security Establishment, which explains the high steel fence and encircling wall of massive stone slabs. Behind the security perimiter, the
sweeping walls of this this modernist office tower make it a distinctive South Ottawa landmark.
Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church
721 Somerset Street West
The white vertical lines and stained glass patterns of this church make for a remarkable contrast with the low-rise commercial bustle of Somerset St. West. The church was built in 1968, and presents a striking blend of 1960s aesthetics with traditional Orthodox church architecture.
Dominican University College
96 Empress Avenue
This impressive stone building houses the Dominican University College and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Convent. Construction on the building began in 1882, and it was initially used as a training hall for Dominican Friars, becoming a public institution in 1900. In recent years the College’s attempts to sell its secluded, walled lawn and gardens have inspired community activism to preserve one of the few green parks in Chinatown.
Set close together in the downtown, the uninspired geometric regularity of the office building tends to pass unnoticed. Every now and then, however, these buildings aspire to a kind of solitary, monolithic grandeur. The Brooke Claxton building, for instance, looms impressively at the far end of Tunney’s Pasture, surrounded by a sea of interlocking brick. And the Jeanne Mance Building is characteristic of the many rectilinear office blocks designed and built in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Trinity United Church
1099 Maitland Avenue
Designed by renowned Ottawa architect Jim Strutt, this unusually modernist church has been described as resembling an ark, or — less charitably — a recycling bin. The soaring ribbed roof and unusually striking combination of materials, textures, and colours create an impression of futuristic industry that is only emphasized by the rush of traffic on Maitland and the looming power lines that border the property.
La Maison Jeanne D’Arc
360 Kenwood Ave.
The headquarters of the the Institute Jeanne D’Arc was designed in 1934 by Mère Marie Thomas D’Aquin, its founder. Oddly, it is the only building she designed. The building features a stone first floor and yellow-brick second floor, as well as square and round arched openings, and pleasingly off-centre geometrical simplicity.
Bank of Canada Building
234 Wellington Street
In 1979, the Bank of Canada wrapped a new glass and steel office tower around its original 1938 granite headquarters, making this one of the very few building-within-a-building structures in Canada. A soaring 12-storey glass atrium encloses the back half of the original building and contains a large tropical garden and pool.
Hart Massey House
400 Lansdowne Rd. N.
Perched on a sloping site looking out over McKay Lake in Rockliffe, this residence was designed and built in 1960 by architect Hart Massey. Its multi-layered and cantilevered design attempts to harmonize modernist design with the landscape, and clearly reflects the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. And it presents a refreshingly low profile in a neighborhood of impressive but overwhelmingly conventional mansions.