Doors Open Ottawa 2014

On June 7th and 8th The City of Ottawa celebrated its 13th annual Doors Open Ottawa event, a festival that allows residents and visitors to the city a rare peek into some of Ottawa’s most admired and significant buildings.

This year, there was a wonderfully eclectic mix of heritage and modern architecture, with an array of events and demonstrations taking place across the city. While old favourites are always a crowd pleaser during “Doors Open Ottawa”, including the National Gallery of Canada, Library of Parliament, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum, it was encouraging to see so many new faces, for what felt like the event’s largest and most exciting year yet. New buildings added to the list, included Bethany Hope Centre on Woodroffe Avenue, The Ottawa Food Bank in Gloucester, Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation in the Market, and the Embassy of Japan on Sussex Drive.

“Doors Open Ottawa” takes place across the city and throughout the Capital Region, and Ottawa neighbourhoods including Sandy Hill, Westboro, Rockcliffe Park and the Market were included on the list of highlighted stops. Once again this year, number twelve on the tour list was Bruyere Continuing Care – Elisabeth Bruyere Hospital located in the Byward Market. Built in 1845, this historic institution was only open to the public on Saturday, as it continues to run as a long-term and palliative care centre today. Named for its founder, The Elisabeth Bruyere Hospital has been assisting the sick and the poor for 169 years. When she arrived in the Capital Region, Mother Bruyere established a home for the aged, an orphanage, and a service to assist the less fortunate in their homes, and it was her vision, along with the hard work of the congregation that assisted her, which saw the hospital expand and grow.

On Saturday the Bruyere Hospital opened the doors to its Research Institute, which features the largest study on aging in Canada: The Canadian Longitudinal Study. The study is a strategic initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, taking place over the next 20 years, and providing valuable knowledge about aging, health, and the lives of people between the ages of 45 – 85. For this special weekend event, the Institute displayed equipment and discussed research techniques for gathering the abundance of information required from participants. The researchers on site and volunteer staff giving tours and demonstrations of the centre were also full of information about the history of the institute and its work. While it was clear that the building was in full operation during “Doors Open Ottawa”, the staff was eager to give visitors a closer look at the incredible research being done on site for current and future generations.


Two other unique buildings that opened their doors for the first time this year were the Embassy of Japan and Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation. Being the Capital of Canada, Ottawa is filled with embassies and official residences from countries across the globe. Each year, many of the local embassies open their doors to the public in an effort to showcase not only the unique architecture of their buildings, but also to give visitors a glimpse into their country’s distinctive cultural and historical characteristics.

Located along Embassy Row on Sussex Drive, the Embassy of Japan includes many traditional Japanese features and designs. When entering, visitors were greeted by a traditional Japanese garden, which is central to all public spaces. “Doors Open Ottawa” visitors were also given a unique taste of Japanese culture and history. The Embassy beautifully presented “Japan through the Seasons”; traditional festive souvenirs and commemorations from every season especially for “Doors Open Ottawa”. Tables and stands were filled with Japanese traditions presented in the form of dolls, dresses, shoes, toys, art, masks, ceremonial tea pots and cups, fans, and much more. Listed as stop number forty on the “Doors Open Ottawa” tour, the Embassy of Japan was a new architectural and cultural treat for Ottawa visitors.


One additional new building that topped the list of must-sees was number twenty-two, The Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation. Located in the heart of the Byward Market, and designed by local architect Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects, this building opened in 1993 as an example of affordable rental housing. While the building itself may seem somewhat ordinary viewed from street-level, its most enduring feature is truly the green roof atop the parking garage. Boasting views of downtown Ottawa, this unique and whimsical space for residents is an oasis in the sky and an example of how affordable ‘green’ design practices can be integrated into even the most budget conscious buildings. The garden is also a wonderful example of how residents in an affordable housing complex can find pride of ownership in managing and cultivating their outdoor spaces.


Ottawa’s architecture is a wide assortment of modern and heritage structures. Once a year, residents and visitors to the City can find themselves exploring some of the most prestigious and culturally significant buildings in the City and country. This year’s “Doors Open Ottawa” was a delight, and with so many options and so little time, it was difficult to choose which neighbourhoods to focus on. And with multiple new buildings opening up annually, each year promises to surprise and enchant. This year, our journey took us on an exploration of the historical and modern architectural gems of the Byward Market. Which neighbourhoods did you visit?

Story and Images: Brynne Campbell