National Gallery of Canada

Located in a prominent position overlooking the city of Ottawa and the Parliament buildings, this is one of Canada's most identifiable buildings and one of Safdie's best-known projects. The Gallery contains a fine arts museum, as well as an auditorium and facilities for education, conservation, art storage and administration. One of the most recognizable features of the museum is the Great Hall, a crystalline dome-like structure that echoes the silhouette of the Parliamentary Library in a contemporary interpretation of the medieval Gothic.

The museum is conceived as a rich experiential sequence juxtaposing extroverted public spaces with ‘introverted’ gallery and contemplation spaces. To offer respite, the Gallery has three courtyards: the Garden courtyard, the Water courtyard and the Contemporary courtyard. All these spaces share a garden function as an oasis from the dominant physical setting and as such are spaces for rest and reflection.

The main entrance pavilion leads to a ramp-glazed colonnade that ascends to the Great Hall. The sloped ramp colonnade leading into the Great Hall forms a ceremonial entrance sequence. A continuous view of Parliament Hill and the river forms an urban panorama before the meditative experience of the galleries. The design reflects an intense focus on the interaction between space and light. Galleries on the upper level are lit by traditional skylights, while galleries at the lower levels are illuminated by a system of shafts lined with reflective mylar which bounce natural light deep into the museum.