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Streamlining Science

NRC Montreal Road Campus

Julien Lacroix, Author

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100 Sussex

Ground was broken on February 28th, 1930 at 100 Sussex Street in Ottawa. The architects responsible for the design of the building are Sproatt & Rolph. They decided to design a Beaux-Arts building. The building, which required lots of space for research facilities, has a grand façade. Six Doric columns that climb two stories flank each side of the main entrance. The grandiose architecture at this site represents the importance that the Mackenzie King government placed on research and science at the time.[1] Newspaper reports covering the official opening of the building in 1932 referred to it as the ‘Temple of Science’.[2]

 At the time of its opening, 100 Sussex had 54 professional staff, a total staff of 153, and an annual budget of $550 000. The Council was also arranged into four divisions of research: Biology and Agriculture, Chemistry, Physics and Engineering, and Research Information.[3] Everything from home insulation to nuclear fission was experimented on here, just to give a sense of the vast array of research taking place at 100 Sussex.[4]

 Besides the exterior of the building, the main lobby area and the rooms radiating from it are in keeping with the classical architectural vocabulary and also present many Beaux-Arts decorative elements, such as the ceilings. Once one enters the laboratory wings of the building, the aesthetic is much more austere. The barrel-vaulted hallways are covered with plain white stucco, and only bland light-brown bricks decorate the walls. It is interesting to make the distinction between the more public arrival and gathering spaces’ aesthetic to that of the research laboratories. The hallways of 100 Sussex give us a glimpse into the kind of aesthetic that would be adopted in a more all-encompassing way in future architecture of NRC research facilities: streamlining.

[1] Kalman, Exploring Ottawa, 122.
[2] 'NRC Opens Its Doors'', National Research Council Canada, Last modified May 22nd, 2003. 
[3] Thistle, The Inner Ring, 331.
[4] Kalman, Exploring Ottawa, 122.
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