Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Government Conference Centre
The Government Conference Centre is a government building in downtown Ottawa, Canada. The building is located at the intersection of Rideau Street and the Rideau Canal, just a short distance from the Canadian Parliament and across the street from the Chateau Laurier hotel. It was opened in 1912 as Ottawa's railway station by the Grand Trunk railroad, and the hotel was built across the street to serve travellers. It remained a train station until 1966 when the National Capital Commission decided to remove the tracks along both sides of the canal and build a new station in the east end of the city. While the NCC had originally planned to tear down the structure, it was spared, becoming the centre of Canada's centenary celebrations in 1967. After sitting empty for many years in the 1980s it was turned into the government conference centre.
It has since been home to many gatherings of civil servants and politicians. Most prominently it was where the official negotiations of the Canada Act and later the Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord. The building was somewhat tarnished by the failure of the two accords, and since then the building has been consistently underused and expensive to maintain. The cavernous structure has never been well suited to its role as a conference centre. In the mid-1990s a proposal was made to turn it into the new home for the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame , but these plans fell through. In his final year in office Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced that the building would become home to a new museum of Canadian political history. Incoming Prime Minister Paul Martin cancelled this project, however and it has remained the conference centre.
As well as hosting conferences the building is also sometimes used as a gallery. It is also the site of the leaders' debates for each federal election.
Architecturally, the building is in the Beaux Arts style. The main departures hall (now the main conference area) is a 3/4 replica of the Roman Baths of Caracalla; by transitivity, it is therefore a 1/2 replica of the (now destroyed) departures hall of New York's Penn Station. Unfortunately, the conversion to a conference has resulted in changes to the departures hall (such as the addition of a wooden translation platform on the east side of the room) which disturb the original Beaux Arts design.
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