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Planned renovations to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa include installing a glass and metal enclosure on multiple floors around a significant portion of the existing building. (DIAMOND SCHMITT ARCHITECTS)
Planned renovations to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa include installing a glass and metal enclosure on multiple floors around a significant portion of the existing building. (DIAMOND SCHMITT ARCHITECTS)

Feds unveil $110-million reno job for National Arts Centre Add to ...

More than $110-million will be poured into ‎a major “facelift” of Canada’s National Arts Centre, an iconic performing venue in the nation’s capital constructed half a century ago.

The renovation adds a 21st century twist to the 1969 building, known for its brutalist architectural style, which features exterior and interior walls clad with concrete.

A significant portion of this upgrade is installing a glass and metal enclosure on multiple floors around a significant portion of the existing building, creating new wings with views and greatly expanding the venue’s capacity for meetings and events.

The overhaul will dramatically change the National Arts Centre, where plays, ballet and music are performed, by re-orienting the direction it faces.

The renovation will now give art patrons sweeping views of the National War Memorial, Parliament Hill and Elgin Street.

The building and the majority of its windows are currently oriented eastward towards the Rideau Canal.

Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the funding Wednesday morning in Ottawa.

“When the building was constructed it was designed to face the beauty of the canal and what would soon be a lagoon on the other side ... except if you look closely you will notice there never was a lagoon,” Mr. Baird, minister responsible for the National Capital Region, explained. This water feature was never built and now the Ottawa Convention Centre sits in its place instead.

He said he’s happy the “back of the NAC” will no longer be turned against the “striking architecture of Parliament Hill” and the war memorial.

The cash for this “architectural renewal” of the National Arts Centre (NAC) comes from the Harper government’s recently-announced $5.8-billion infrastructure scheme for federally owned assets from museums to defence buildings.

The “facelift,” as Ms. Glover calls it, is expected to be completed in 2017, in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary. It will expand space within the NAC for events to 18,000 sq. ft from 7,500 sq. ft.

The government has selected the Toronto firm of Diamond Schmitt Architects to prepare a concept design. The firm has designed projects including the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto, the Maison Symphonique in Montreal and the New Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Opened two years after Canada’s 100th birthday as a centennial project, the National Arts Centre welcomes more than 1.2 million visitors each year.

Ms. Glover called the NAC “a national treasure” that needs to be restored. She told an audience of NAC supporters the investment is evidence that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a big backer of the arts.

During the 2008 election campaign, Mr. Harper was accused of pitting Canadians against the creative community after he charged that artists protesting culture funding cuts are out of touch with Canadians.

“He does represent so much more than what you see on television. He is a man who is dedicated to the arts and culture of this country,” Ms. Glover said of Mr. Harper.

The existing NAC building structure will not be altered in the renovation. Everything in the upgrade will be added.

Contractors will be under pressure to finish the project by 2017, which arrives about 25 months from now. The original building, planned for 1967, suffered delays and cost overruns that delayed opening for two years.

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