Canadian Museum of Civilization

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 Canadian Museum of Civilization
In 1982, Douglas Cardinal Architect Inc. was succesful in winning the competition to construct the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Due to the political circumstances and multiple stakeholders, the government of the day resolved to implement a very thight schedule for design and construction. Thus, this award-winning project was built using a "fast track" method adn took only 7 years to complete. After the initial design, construction while the following construction drawings went underway. For example the first package was the excavation and foundation. As Prime Consultant, our responsibilities included design, construction coordination with numerous consultants from across Canada, the general contractor, sub-contractors, as well as to liaison with various governmental agencies and levels of government including the Prime Minister of Canada, who took an active interest in this project.

In addition to the entire east wing, including the archival spaces, storage, administrative and workshops, our firm was responsible for a significant portion of the interior and exhibit design for the west wing. In addition to typical spaces such as service, common or gathering areas, the main entrances, and Omnimax theatres, our fi rm was responsible for the following exhibit spaces: Grand Hall (part of base building, the first and second phase of the First People’s Hall, The Children’s Museum, and a portion of the Canada Hall.

This project is Canada’s first and foremost national museum to specifically celebrate the civilizations of the world, on one of the most prestigious sites along Canada’s confederation boulevard. As such, the design considerations of this project where quite varied and of utmost importance at a national, regional and local level, for both the exterior and interior spaces. To meet approval from all parties, the museum’s design had to take into close consideration the site along the Ottawa River, its context in the cities of Gatineau, Quebec (formerly known as Hull) and Ottawa, Ontario, and perhaps most importantly its place in the federal precinct of Canada’s National Capital Region. The most stringent standards for indoor environments were required to ensure that it was able to house rare artefacts from not only Canada but around the world. It’s archival, storage and work shop spaces are on the leading edge of museum environments even by today’s standards, in addition to Canadian and Native artefacts of its permanent collection.

The complex building and environmental systems were conceived of as an integral part of the museum, not only as necessity but as a concept. Through vision sessions and consultations between the various disciplines, a cross-pollination of ideas occurred and this approach led to a museum design, which is to this day on the leading edge of technology. For example, the museum is heated and cooled by the Ottawa River, the building’s design and orientation maximizes the southern exposure to the river not only aesthetically but functionally in maximizing/minimizing heat gain from summer to winter through strategically planned glazing and cantilevered floor plates. Its operational costs are thus very low as compared to any other building of its size and complexity in the country.

As testament to the success of our conceptual and design approach, the Canadian Museum of Civilization ranks second only to the Canadian Parliament Buildings as Ontario’s number on tourist attraction. With over 1.5 million visitors a year from all over the world, the building is as much of an exhibit and attraction as the installations and artefacts themselves.

Conceptually, this project called for a unique and innovative architectural solution that would symbolize the creation and evolution of the various cultures of this country’s development. The Canadian Museum of Civilization celebrates the history and culture of Canada. Its role is much like a temple to the Nation, and acts as a custodian of the Nation’s past. The museum is a symbolic form. It speaks of the natural emergence of this continent, its forms sculpted by the winds, the rivers, and the glaciers. It speaks of the emergence of man from the melting glaciers, of men and women living harmoniously and evolving with the forces of nature. It depicts man as a creature of the earth who knows his tremendous power, yet understands that he must live in harmony with nature.


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Building Activity

  • Teodora Todorova
    Teodora Todorova updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator
  • Teodora Todorova
    Teodora Todorova updated a digital reference, updated 57 media, added 4 digital references, removed 2 media and uploaded 15 media
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    about 6 years ago via