Built in the brutalist architectural style—popularized in the 1950s and known for its concrete aesthetic—and a designated National Historic Site of Canada, the NAC features more than 1,300 performances a year, sharing with audiences the best in music, theater, and dance. The NAC rejuvenation was the largest government investment in an architectural project to mark Canada 150.

The NAC’s dramatic transformation included a new glass façade featuring the signature Kipnes Lantern, a 60-foot hexagonal tower of glass and steel positioned above the building’s main entrance. Transparent LED-lined glass panels illuminate images of upcoming performances at the NAC and promote others taking place on stages across the country. 

Inside the NAC, PCL added 60,000 square feet of space, bringing the total area to almost 1.2 million. A new two-level atrium wraps around one side of the complex, offering a mix of public spaces, lobbies and rentable rooms, including a major event space on the northeast corner that gives sweeping views of downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill. The update also provides improved accessibility and a west elevation expansion that incorporates the NAC’s renovated “Fourth Stage” performance space. 

In honor of Canada 150, the design also features Canadian luxury materials such as triangulated limestone floor tiles quarried at Owen Sound, hexagonal Douglas Fir wood ceiling coffers, and perforated, bronzed aluminum exterior fins and cladding.

On a cushion of air—that’s how PCL moved a 10ton steel beam through the NAC lobby. The 60-foot beam, the biggest piece of structural steel used on the project, supports the new addition at the north end of the building. The NAC lobby’s polished terrazzo floor, however, would have cracked under the weight of the beam while it was being transported.


As a solution, the structural steel contractor brought in a construction compressor. A series of hoses were connected from the compressor to a distribution tank and then to three pneumatic air casters—resembling miniature hovercrafts—which lifted the beam 1 inch above the floor, enabling the crew to guide it carefully through the NAC lobby, leaving the terrazzo flooring unscathed. But as innovative as the delivery was, once the beam was in location the construction team had to lift it into place, in the traditional way using chain hoists and muscle.

The NAC rejuvenation features large quantities of manufactured glulam (glue-laminated lumber) coffers throughout most of the public spaces. PCL, in collaboration with the design team and the specialist glulam contractor, prefabricated the individual roof panels and incorporated all mechanical, life safety, electrical infrastructure, and finished wood ceiling panels on the underside, and the finished roof membrane on the exterior topside.


PCL purchased bulk glulam segments, which were fabricated and satin-finished in Vancouver, British Columbia and shipped to a temporary fabrication shop an hour from the NAC project site. The fabrication team assembled the glulam coffers, and project team consultants then tested and inspected each panel and integrated system. Third-party Electrical Safety Authority inspectors checked the panels to complete the quality-control process. 

The project team wrapped and transported the multicoffer panels on a just-in-time basis to downtown Ottawa, where they offloaded them using a 350-ton mobile crane and immediately placed them in position on the project. After assembling the panels, PCL installed light fixtures and made the final mechanical and electrical connections on-site.

In a truly royal reveal, Prince Charles attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to draw the curtain on a rejuvenated theatrical space ready to entertain more than 1.2 million visitors a year.