As the nation’s capital, the city of Ottawa sometimes gets a bad rap for its architectural landscape dotted with 60s and 70s era concrete government buildings. However, there are also many examples of beautiful and historically significant structures found throughout the city.
In addition to architectural gems like the gothic revival buildings on Parliament Hill and the Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne Park, the city boasts an impressive collection of museums designed by prominent architects. Not only do these cultural institutions hold a substantial amount of Canadian history and culture, but the structures themselves have earned international acclaim.
To highlight these buildings, we put together a photo tour showcasing some of the most popular museums in Ottawa. Check out our photos below.
Canadian Museum of Nature
Architects: David Ewart (1910)
Padolsky, Kuwabara, Gagnon Joint Venture Architects (PKG):
Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects, KPMB Architects, and Gagnon Letellier Cyr Ricard Mathieu Architectes (2010)
Officially named the Victoria Memorial Museum Building (VMMB), this grand, castle-like structure was designed by chief architect David Ewart in the Scottish Baronial style. Completed in 1910, the VMMB was the first building in Canada constructed to house a national museum after an 1856 Act of Parliament was granted to the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).
Between 2004 and 2010, the museum underwent an intensive renovation project led PKG Joint Venture Architects, a consortium of architects including Bruce Kuwabara of Toronto's KPMB, Ottawa-based Barry Padolsky, and Gagnon Letellier Cyr Ricard Mathieu Architectes of Quebec.
Canadian War Museum
Canada’s national museum of military history was once housed inside a federal heritage building at 330 Sussex Drive. In 2005, the museum moved to a brand new facility in the LeBreton Flats site in downtown Ottawa, just west of the Parliament Buildings. Prior to construction, the National Capital Commission embarked on a major remediation program to remove large volumes of contaminated soil left on the former industrial lands.
Canadian Museum of History
Located on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River, the Canadian Museum of History — formerly known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization — sits prominently across from Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa. However, it's not just the museum’s location that makes it stand out. Its exterior architecture, designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal is defined by curving forms and undulating shells that are bold and distinctive easily giving it landmark status.
National Gallery of Canada
Architect: Moshe Safdie
Just down the street from the Canadian Museum of History is another national landmark by a renowned Canadian architect. Opened in 1988, the National Gallery of Canada was designed by award-winning architect Moshe Safdie who was also the mind behind Montreal’s iconic Habitat 67.
Clad in grey and pink granite sourced from Tadoussac, Quebec, the post-modern structure consists of several light-filled galleries and quiet courtyards that showcases a large collection Canadian, European, American, Asian, Inuit and contemporary art.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
The origins of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum date back to 1964 when three separate government-owned collections were combined to form the National Aeronautical Collection. It was housed in a series of World War II-era hangars at the Rockcliffe Airport until 1988 when the current Aviation Museum was built.
While it may be the smallest on our list, the Bytown Museum is arguably just as important to the city of Ottawa. That’s because it explores the city’s rich history including its early days as a lumber town called Bytown, the construction of the Rideau Canal, and its emergence as the nation’s capital after the signing of Confederation in 1867.
The museum is housed in the Commissariat Building which was originally built as a treasury and storehouse during the construction of the adjacent Rideau Canal. The Georgian style stone building was designed by Scottish-born Thomas McKay and is located along the Rideau locks between Parliament Hill and the Château Laurier.