330 Sussex Drive

History and Revitalization of a Canadian Heritage Landmark

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Ottawa was named the capital of the Dominion of Canada in 1867 and its transformation from a lumber town to an urban capital was well underway. The decision to build the Dominion Archives at 330 Sussex Drive reflected a growing interest and pride in Canada’s heritage and identity. The facility was part of a broader initiative led by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier to transform the capital city of Ottawa into a prestigious destination and a centre for intellectual development. The new public archives at 330 Sussex Drive would be a place for Canada’s historical records to be collected, preserved and studied.

The original wing of 330 Sussex was a three-storey stone building with a central entrance built between 1904 and 1906 in the Tudor Gothic architectural style. In 1925, another wing was built to accommodate the growing collection of archival records. This addition was built at a right angle to the original with the hope that a third wing might be introduced along its north edge as the institution continued to expand.

Many aspects of the building’s design speak to its initial purpose: the large windows provided ample natural light to review documents; several open, undivided spaces allowed for readings tables, shelving and displays; and the fire-proof building materials ensured the protection of historical documents.

When the archives were moved to a new facility, the building was adapted to serve as the Canadian War Museum, with its extensive collection of artifacts, paintings, and war records acquired since 1880. Once again, 330 Sussex was a place for telling the stories of Canadians.

The War Museum’s collection eventually outgrew the facility and, in 2005, the museum moved to its current home on LeBreton Flats in downtown Ottawa.

330 Sussex sat vacant until a partnership between the Government of Canada and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada began a rehabilitation process to transform the building into the Global Centre for Pluralism’s new international headquarters. The building would become a global hub for research, learning and dialogue about the values, policies and practices that advance respect for diversity both in Canada and globally.  

“Let us replace war with peace. Our own commitment is to invest in this building so that it becomes a worthy testament to Canada’s global leadership in the cause of pluralism.”

His Highness the Aga Khan, Ottawa, 2006

The award-winning Canadian firm KPMB Architects led the transformation of 330 Sussex Drive into the Centre’s global headquarters. Considerable investments were made by His Highness the Aga Khan to bring this building back to life with full respect for its important heritage.

In the building, the Centre hosts events and programming demonstrating the benefits of building societies that recognize and value human differences.