Architects go through design gauntlet in planning new British High Commission at Earnscliffe property

Rendering of proposed office building at 140 Sussex Drive, beside the high commissioner's residence at Earnscliffe. HOK Architects /Image via British High Commission

Friday, January 10, 2020


A new three-storey British High Commission building nestled in the lush riverfront property of Earnscliffe is challenging architects to complement the existing historic residence with a contemporary office along Ottawa’s Confederation Boulevard.

The British government is moving its Canadian diplomatic headquarters from Elgin Street to the Earnscliffe property at 140 Sussex Drive, which the British government purchased in 1930 for the high commissioner’s official residence.

The residence, a Gothic Revival stone house dating back to 1855 that was once home to Sir John A. Macdonald and was declared a National Historic Site in 1960, will remain on the land.  However, the high commission’s development plan calls for the demolition of an unused office building that is shuttered and has no heritage protection.

The high commission’s architecture consultants faced the city’s urban design review panel on Friday to hear what experts thought of the concept. The design gauntlet is a chance for project architects to receive compliments and criticisms from their peers, who are assembled by the city to provide objective analysis of proposed building designs in key locations.

The proposed development would largely comply with the city’s official plan and zoning rules for the land, but the city says the high commission will require minor variances.

The National Capital Commission has also received the development proposal for review since its land borders the Earnscliffe land.

The final construction cost for the new building is still being determined, the high commission said. The opening is eyed for early 2022.


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Related Reading:

New High Commission Building Announced for Ottawa | British High Commission Ottawa, December 17, 2019