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Canadian Parliament – Ottawa, Canada

Parliament Hill is home to the Canadian Parliament and House of Commons.  At first glance, some influences from the Palace of Westminster and its famous ’Big Ben’ Clock Tower may come to mind.  However, Parliament Hill is quite unique in the realm of national capitol buildings.  While not nearly as historic as places like Westminster or Capitol Hill, Parliament Hill has a unique sense of Canadian style in all its majestic glory.


The main parliamentary buildings were built between 1865 and 1927 in response to Canada’s confederation in 1867.  The first block to be completed was the West Block in 1865.  The East Block commenced construction in 1867 but was not fully completed until 1927.  The prominent Centre Block was finished in 1878, while the National Library was finished in 1876.  The first ever session of Canadian Parliament was in June of 1866.

The building as it stands today is not the original one.  In 1916, a large fire razed the Centre Block, destroying everything but the adjacent library behind it.  Immediate efforts to rebuild the Centre Block began shortly afterwards and it was rebuilt by 1920.  A massive new tower was also in the works at the time, known as the Peace Tower.  It was meant to commemorate the end of WWI, and was finally finished in 1927. It was almost double the size of the original Victoria Tower, and now stands at 92.2 metres.


The Parliament Hill buildings are closely related to the Gothic Revival style of architecture spurred by Victorian designers looking to bring back medieval forms in the light of newer building techniques.  The unique feature of Parliament Hill in terms of Gothic Revival style is that it is built entirely from rough stones hewed from the Canadian Shield.  In this respect, it is a unique kind of Gothic Revival structure that lacks the smooth elegance of buildings like the Palace of Westminster.  In architectural terms, however, the move to use Canadian stone was a brilliant one that helped to define the country.  The color of the stones is several shades darker than most Gothic Revival buildings.  The entire building has a rough, natural look despite the heavy use of ornamentation.  There are almost 400 different stone carvings around the building that include a number of gothic elements like gargoyles, grotesques, and friezes.

Part of a unique 112,000 square metre plot of land reserved for national buildings, the Parliament buildings stand atop a large hill overlooking the scenic Ottawa River.  In the winter, the river becomes the largest skating surface in the world with a length of 8 kilometres.