Story Ideas

10 things you need to know about… Iconic Canadian architecture

Walk all over the country’s most distinctive public-space architecture, from the cutting edge to the historical.

11 December 2015

Suggested Tweet: Follow Canada’s iconic architecture for a bit of historical and cultural time travel #explorecanada  

Public architecture is one way to appreciate Canada’s unique blend of geography, heritage and culture. Here are 10 of the country’s most iconic examples.

1. The redesign of Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario showcases the genius of Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry: the eye-catching curve of the glass and wood facade, the dramatic sculptural staircase and the spaces awash in natural light.
2. The marble floors and vaulted ceilings of the Parliament Buildings are home to Canada’s federal government. The stately, Modern Gothic Revival buildings include the Peace Tower with its spectacular view over Ottawa.

3. The majestic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac embodies the romantic charms of Québec City. The “castle on the hill” is one of the world’s most photographed hotels. The self-guided tour app assists on a 15-minute interactive historical tour.

4. The Canadian War Museum integrates richly symbolic architecture in the telling of Canada’s military past. Energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives like the green roof guide design choices, material selection and the overall architectural theme of regeneration.

5. The Canadian Museum of History, the nation’s most-visited museum, features sensuous curves (one convex, the other concave) that hug the Ottawa River. The innovative design is reminiscent of Canada’s natural landforms.

6. Built in 1888 as a Canadian Pacific Railway hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs was styled after a Scottish baronial castle. This château style of the Late Victorian period proved a trademark of Canadian architecture until the beginning of the Second World War.

7. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights stands in Winnipeg at the historic forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, site of Canada’s first post-Confederation First Nations treaty. The curvaceous architecture transitions from darkness to light, meant to parallel the journey of human rights.

8. In 2007, the Royal Ontario Museum unveiled a major expansion, marrying the 1912 stone building with five modern, crystalline-inspired additions (known collectively as the Lee-Chin Crystal) linked to the original structure by bridges. Steel beams create fascinating angle joints, sloped walls and ceilings.

9. The roof of the Richmond Olympic Oval mimics the stylized shape of a heron’s wing. The unique “wood wave” roof of the multi-sports arena includes BC pine beetle-killed wood linked together to create a rolling, rippled effect.

10. The central Vancouver Public Library is a seven-storey rectangular box surrounded by a freestanding elliptical wall, resembling the Colosseum in Rome. The internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed, glass-roofed concourse that serves as the library’s entry foyer.

Looking for more visual inspiration from Canada’s architecture? Browse our Brand Canada Library for thousands of images and videos from all over Canada.

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