West Block

The West Block (officially the Western Departmental Building; in French: Édifice administratif de l'ouest) is one of the three buildings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario, containing offices for parliamentarians, as well as some preserved pre-Confederation spaces.

Built in the Victorian High Gothic style, the West Block has been extended twice since its original completion in 1865. Though not as renowned as the Centre Block of parliament, the West Block appears on the obverse of the Canadian five-dollar bill. Unlike the other buildings, however, it is not open for public tours.


Designed by Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver, the West Block is an asymmetrical structure built in the Victorian High Gothic style, with load bearing masonry walls, all clad in a rustic Nepean sandstone exterior and dressed stone trim around windows and other edges, as well as displaying a multitude of stone carvings, including gargoyles, grotesques, and friezes, keeping with the style of the rest of the parliamentary complex. The West Block adds to the Ottawa skyline three prominent towers: the Mackenzie Tower (added in 1878), the Laurier Tower (added in 1906), and the Southwest Tower.

During a planned renovation of the Centre Block to begin in 2019, the central courtyard of the West Block will be infilled and roofed over in order that it may serve as a temporary chamber for the House of Commons.


The Department of Public Works sent out, on 7 May 1859, a call for architects to submit proposals for the new parliament buildings to be erected on Barrack Hill, which was answered by 298 submitted drawings. After the entries were narrowed down to three, then Governor General Sir Edmund Walker Head was approached to break the stalemate, and the winner was announced on 29 August 1859. The departmental buildings, Centre Block, and a new residence for the Governor General were each awarded separately, and the team of Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver under the pseudonym of Stat nomen in umbra, won the prize for the first category.

Construction on the West Block commenced by the end of 1859, at the same time as work on the Centre Block and Stent and Laver's East Block began. By the time it was completed in 1865, the building was three years behind schedule, and the first tenants were the offices of the Postmaster General, the Ministry of Public Works, and the Crown lands departments. As the number of parliamentary and administrative staff increased as the area of the country grew, more space was added to the West Block in 1878 – the Mackenzie Wing and Tower – and 1906 – the Laurier Tower and link.

In the early years of the third millennium, the masonry of the West Block was found to be in a state of severe disrepair; scaffolding and protective sheeting were erected in order to prevent falling blocks from striking pedestrians and/or cars below, and a restoration project was immediately implemented. The two largest towers were also stabilised with temporary steel structures, for fear of stones falling off them.