Where is the U.S. Embassy located?
Who is the U.S. Ambassador to Canada?
Can I visit the the Embassy?
No, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa is not open to the general public.
What are the Embassy's security procedures?
How long has the United States had an Embassy in Canada?
Who is the architect of the Embassy building?
Mr. David Childs is the senior design partner and past chairman of the New York-based architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. A graduate of Yale and the Yale School of Architecture, he spent the initial part of his career in the Washington, DC office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and in 1981 received a presidential appointment as chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission. He moved to the firm’s New York office in 1984 and was appointed SOM’s first CEO in 1991.
Throughout his years of practice in Washington, Mr. Childs became noted for his design of “appropriate” architecture, buildings and spaces that respond to their settings and programs rather than pursue a preconceived architectural image. His projects in Washington include the master plan and landscape design for the Great Mall and Constitution Gardens, the National Geographic Society Headquarters, the U.S. News and World Report Headquarters, the Regent Hotel, the Evening Star Building renovation and addition, the new International Arrivals Building at Dulles International Airport, and numerous other public and private commissions.
In 1984, Mr. Childs moved to SOM’s New York office, applying his philosophy of appropriateness to a diverse range of projects in New York City including Worldwide Plaza on Eighth Avenue, the master plan for Riverside South, One Broadway Place, a retail-and-office tower development at Times Square, 450 Lexington Avenue, an office tower above the historic Grand Central Post Office, and Columbus Center, a 2.6 million-square-foot complex at Columbus Circle on Central Park.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Founded in 1936, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP is one of the leading architecture, urban design and planning, engineering, and interior architecture firms in the United States. The firm’s sophistication in building technology applications and commitment to design quality have resulted in a portfolio that features some of the most important architectural accomplishments of this century.
SOM is responsible for the design and construction of one of the world’s tallest buildings, the 109-story Sears Tower in Chicago. SOM also designed Lever House, an office building in New York City which established a new vocabulary and set standards for office design around the world. Other signature projects include the U.S. Air Force Academy, the John Hancock Tower in Chicago, and the Bank of America World Headquarters in San Francisco. In addition to the New Embassy Office Building, recent projects include the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Station in New York, a new tower for the New York Stock Exchange, the Kuwait Police College, and a new terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Since its founding, SOM has completed more than 10,000 architecture, interior architecture, and planning projects located in more than 50 countries around the world. The firm has received more than 700 awards, including the first Firm of the Year Award, awarded in 1961 by the American Institute of Architects for design excellence. Honored again in 1996, SOM is the first firm to win this award twice.
What is the design philosophy of the Embassy building?
The new 12,819 square meter U.S. Embassy Office Building incorporates offices for Embassy departments and tenant agencies of the U.S. Government currently located in a number of buildings in Ottawa. Located on the last site in the Parliament Hill zone, the building needed to respond to complex urban design contexts on each of its four sides: the Byward Market and the “Town” to the east; to the north, the Peacekeeping Monument and the turning of the Ceremonial Parade Route around the monument from Sussex Drive to MacKenzie Avenue; the Federal district or “Crown” with its dramatic and monumental buildings as well as Major’s Hill Park and the dramatic views of the river and beyond to the west; and finally, the York Steps and the connection of the Town and Crown to the south.
A strong unifying form was needed to anchor the U.S. Embassy Office Building to its unusual site and tie together many diverse site influences and planning concerns. A heavy rusticated, rock face stone “plinth” base provides the anchoring device. The plinth, six meters high along the entire Sussex Drive facade, wraps around the north tower at Murray Street and continues along the west facade until it is terminated at the MacKenzie Avenue building entrance where the plinth is “absorbed” into the higher level’s grade. The plinth successfully integrates the building with the extreme grade differential of the site, and ties together the two distinct building entrances which necessarily occur on opposite sides of the building. The U.S. Embassy Office Building site has no “back”, and thus the building must have four distinct “fronts” which must respond to the four distinct contextual environments which border upon it. The plinth helps to tie together the differing contextual responses which each facade of the U.S. Embassy Office Building manifests. Incoming vehicular traffic to the U.S. Embassy Office Building’s car garage and loading entrance on Sussex Drive and to the neighboring Connaught Building is accommodated by way of entrance doors located within the plinth wall which helps to conceal these possibly unsightly service areas from view.
The U.S. Embassy Office Building is organized as two bars of double-loaded office space joined by an atrium. The building is symmetrically disposed around the Clarence Street axis. The two bars of office space are of unequal lengths in response to the differences in the program, as well as a response to the surrounding context, with the long bar along Sussex Drive and the shorter bar on MacKenzie Avenue where open views to the Park are provided from the building as well as diagonal northwest and southwest views to the Park from the Market.
The Sussex Drive elevation is terminated by two tower elements which anchor the ends of the building and provide some asymmetry to an overall symmetrical facade. The south tower is low and square in keeping with the characteristics of the York Street corridor. The north tower is a “lantern” element which stresses the importance of the approach from the Ceremonial Route from Sussex Drive. The Sussex Drive facade is modulated by punched windows and vertical elements in an effort to create a rhythm and scale sympathetic to the Byward Market heritage buildings. Its intention is to hold the street edge and to be a “good neighbor” to the market buildings of the Town.
The scale to the west of the site is more monumental than the Town side and the strong Federal presence justifies a bolder response. The U.S. Embassy Office Building site represents a transition between the Town and Crown.
The MacKenzie Avenue facade is more horizontal in nature as evidenced by its polished stone bands and continuous curved wall. It is more singular, symmetrical and monumental than the Sussex Drive facade, establishing an identity more appropriate to its function as the ceremonial approach to the U.S. Embassy Office Building.
The center atrium of the building breaks up the long circulation corridors and provides a common center to the building, formed by the intersection of the corridor atrium and the Clarence Street cross axis. This center is marked by a tall tower element, the purpose of which is threefold: 1) to bring light into the building’s center; 2) to express the core and circulation within the building on the exterior; and 3) as an end to the Clarence Street axis. A monumental stair in the center of the atrium is expressed on the exterior and provides the main vertical circulation element for the convenience of the embassy staff. The interior office suites are accessed through entry doors from the lighted atrium corridors which function like an entrance from an interior common street.
The two office bars are bound together by a curved roof element which serves to carry the eye from the north to the south towers around the MacKenzie Avenue elevation. It provides a connection through its cap and material to the copper roofs which mark the major Government and public buildings of Ottawa.
The landscape planning for the U.S. Embassy Office Building respects the Crown and the Town aspects of this unique site and integrates the sidewalk treatment and street furniture in keeping with the guidelines of the Confederation Boulevard improvements established by the National Capital Commission. Street trees are in accordance with those recommended by the Sussex/MacKenzie Guidelines Confederation Boulevard improvements, and the U.S. Embassy Office Building’s immediate plantings are flowering shrubs, low in scale, that take their impetus from the Major’s Hill Park plantings.
The fence along MacKenzie Avenue strengthens the shape of the curved roof form, while the fence curve also helps to resolve the extreme grade change which occurs from north to south across the site. Along Sussex Drive, the fence provides a strong street edge and presents to the Sussex Drive streetscape an appropriately scaled approach and gates to the U.S. Embassy Office Building.
What do the interior furnishings look like?
The design of the building, the selections of art, and the design and selection of the interior furnishings’ details and finishes express the shared experience, close relationship and free trade association between the United States and Canada.
The selection of maple as the primary wood finish used throughout the building is natural, considering the maple leaf as a symbol of Canada. All of the casegoods furniture in the offices and workstations is finished in maple veneer. This furniture is produced by a highly reputed United States firm, Knoll International of East Greenville, Pennsylvania, in its Reff manufacturing plant in Toronto, Canada. Knoll International acquired Reff in 1990. Reff was originally a Canadian manufacturing firm founded by Robert, Erick and Frank Zoebelein and their cousin, Fred Drechsel in 1964. The name Reff derives from the first letter of the founders’ first names. The name was retained by Knoll as the name of its high quality wood product line. Reff furniture is also used in the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C.
The maple leaf theme was carried into the lead fabric for the Embassy. A special stars and maple leaf pattern in deep niagara blue mohair was designed for the seating in all reception areas throughout the building. The pattern is a field of stars, punctuated with an occasional maple leaf. The use of mohair, a traditional wool-nap fabric known for its strength, durability, and warmth acknowledges the Canadian climate and the shared northern border of the two countries.
A glass conference table in the executive suite is carved with a multi-level relief of the Great Seal of the United States, and is etched with the words, “Embassy of the United States, Ottawa, Canada”. It sits on a rolled-steel base. The table and base were designed and fabricated by Custom Steel Limited of Riverdale, New Jersey.
The majority of all filing and storage cabinets used in the Embassy are manufactured by Office Specialty Incorporated, a Canadian-owned factory producing in Ottawa, Canada. They are finished in a dark blue also.
Who is the artist of the sculpture outside the Embassy building?
Joel Shapiro’s sculptures have been extensively exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. A graduate of the New York University (1964), Joel Shapiro, for over a quarter of a century, has created works defining him as one of his generation’s finest sculptors.
Joel Shapiro has had many one-person exhibitions. The Whitney Museum of American Art organized a major retrospective in 1982, which traveled to the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1985 he was the subject of a traveling exhibition organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
The first major exhibition of Joel Shapiro’s outdoor works opened at the Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 1995 and traveled to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art/Kansas City Sculpture Park in 1996.
Among Joel Shapiro’s commissions and publicly sited sculptures are those located in major cities in the United States, Japan, and Europe, including a large outdoor sculpture for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. (1993); a bronze sculpture for Sony Plaza in New York City (1995); and a piece for the Friedrichstadt Passagen, Berlin (1995). Most recently, he installed a large three-part sculpture at the Kansas City International Airport and a sculpture in front of the municipal building in the Kanton of Aarau, Switzerland.
In 1975, Joel Shapiro received a National Endowment for the Arts award for sculpture. He also received the Brandeis University Creative Arts Award in 1984, the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 1986, and an Award of Merit Medal for Sculpture, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, in 1990. Joel Shapiro was elected to the Swedish Royal Academy of Art in 1994. In 1998, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, elected him a member.
Joel Shapiro’s forty-foot bronze sculpture in Ottawa, entitled “Conjunction”, was cast at the Tallix Foundry in Beacon, New York where “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” by Bill Reid, a sculpture in the Canadian Embassy in Washington, was also cast.
Speaking on his sculpture, Mr. Shapiro said, “I wanted to create a sculpture that would be sympathetic to the architecture and the site. I wanted the sculpture to be large but not overwhelming, enduring but not leaden, open and expansive but not monumental, complicated but easy to read. You can see the sculpture as a joining of individual parts into a coherent and unexpected whole. I wanted it to be animate and human – about growth and conjunction. I wanted the work to use common language that all could understand. I wanted it to be accessible and moving: about the future, understood from common pasts. I wanted to make a sculpture that would represent the close historical ties and relationship between our two nations.”
“I know that these thoughts can be given form. The sculpture’s organization is spontaneous — about the present, but its components are familiar; the ground we walk on, the building wall, our own articulation as we proceed throughout the world.”
“I am looking for the unexpected. I want it to take off, to soar, to be a symbol of optimism and possibility.”
I hear that there are quotations from U.S. presidents engraved in stone on the interior walls of the Embassy. What are they?
The following quotations are engraved in stone on an interior wall of the U.S. Embassy building in Ottawa:
“Here, on this continent, we present an example that other nations some day surely will recognize and apply in their relationships among themselves.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 14, 1953
“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.
– John F. Kennedy, May 17, 1961
“Let the 5000 mile border between Canada and the United States stand as a symbol for the future. Let it forever be not a point of division but a meeting place between our great and true friends.”
– Ronald Reagan, September 28, 1988
“As we stand on the threshold of a new millennium, let us build a future of peace and prosperity, of freedom and dignity for our continent and beyond.”
– William J. Clinton, April 8, 1997
“In a world where too many borders are a source of conflict, our two countries are joined by the longest border of peace on earth.”
– Barack Obama, June 29, 2016