Behnisch Architekten is finalist in the Block 2 Competition in Ottawa

14 April, 2022

The six finalist teams in the Block 2 competition revealed their designs in a live presentation. The competition task was to plan the redevelopment of Block 2, the full city block directly opposite Canada’s Parliament buildings.

Team members are:

Watson MacEwen Teramura Architects - Ottawa, Canada
Behnisch Architekten - Boston, USA
Entuitive - Toronto, Canada
Bouthillette Parizeau - Ottawa, Canada
Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH - Stuttgart, Germany
Bartenbach GmbH - Aldrans, Austria

Our sustainable visions for this prominent space in Canada’s capital were presented by Stefan Behnisch and Michelle Lee of Behnisch Architekten together with Matthias Rudolph of Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH.

The Government of Canada intends to realize new facilities for its Members of Parliament and their staffs on the site known as Block 2 facing Parliament Hill. Beyond simply resolving a myriad of functional and technical requirements, the project lies at the interface of the Crown with the Town of Ottawa, and must appropriately reconcile the interests and demands of both. It will also stand as a testament to Canada’s profound commitment to environmental stewardship, and to rebuilding her relationship to indigenous Canadians.
In the 21st Century, citizens of open societies and members of advanced democracies should focus on the representation of all members of society. We should focus on human-centric design that takes social, economic, environmental and political factors into account. The pure representation of greatness or the demonstration of raw power no longer belongs in our time and is nowadays only possible in autocratic political environments. Democratic buildings should support and reflect our ideals as a society: the openness and transparency we expect in society as well as in its governing forms.

The new buildings on Block 2 should embrace and celebrate the diversity that is modern-day Canada. They should herald tolerance, inclusion, collaboration and communication while providing spaces for healing, dialogue, and interchange of knowledge. Furthermore, Block 2 must offer a counter-narrative to the one presented in the Center Block, one that takes its inspiration from the place that pre-exists Canada as a nation, from the environment that surrounds all Canadians. It should be an approach that honors the reality of our current natural environment, recognizes environmental issues and brings to life the teachings of the hundreds of indigenous traditions and cultures within Canada.

Our proposal for Block 2 conveys an openness that is in contrast to the formal, monumental buildings of Parliament. It is a wood-framed structure punctuated by distributed wintergarden spaces, which organize and stimulate the social nature of the building. Each wintergarden is infused with its own microclimate and unique character, employing native, living materials such as birch an cedar trees, sage, arctic cotton and sweet grass which draw upon the flora of the various parts of the Canadian landscape. Daylight and fresh air connect the building’s inhabitants to the daily cycles of nature and the environment.

Along Wellington Street, we bring the existing Indigenous People’s Space building into dialogue with a new covered, public plaza space that extends the axis of the Peace Tower and the Centennial Flame into the site and defines the main entrance to the complex. The roof of a curving entry pavilion houses a water basin that reflects daylight onto the surface of the plaza covering that also serves as a place for temporary art installations.

The generously-glazed, ceramic-clad facades are designed to enhance natural daylight and protect against sun and overheating. The lower portions of the eastern, western and southern elevations are tilted and integrate photovoltaics panels that work in tandem with roof mounted photovoltaics to generate renewable electricity for the building.

You can watch the design concept presentations on Facebook or have a look at the six finalist designs at Canadian Architect.

The jury will make their final decision in Ottawa at the end of April. Public Services and Procurement Canada is accepting feedback until April 19. You may send feedback per email to