Description of Historic Place
The Government of Canada Building is a large, modern, flat-roofed, two-storey building that features curtain walls with aluminum ribs and mullions and deep blue porcelain-enamelled spandrel panels on three of its elevations, and a subtle asymmetry in the placement and treatment of its entrances and two-storey blind accent walls, which are all clad in panels of black polished granite. The Government of Canada Building occupies almost an entire city block in a transitional area at the south end of downtown Sarnia, which consists of a waterfront zone to the west of the building, and a general commercial zone to the east, north, and south of the building. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Government of Canada Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Government of Canada Building is associated with the post-World War II expansion of federal services. Built to house several major government tenants, the Government of Canada Building also illustrates the boom years of the community, specifically the growth of the local economy due to the development of the Petro Chemical industry in Sarnia. This period in the community’s history was also characterized by the annexation of parts of the Township and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and as a result, the Government of Canada Building functioned as more of a regional service center than as a town facility.
The Government of Canada Building is a very good example of a modern federal building, characterized by a more progressive interpretation of the International Style relative to other federal buildings dating from the same period. The Government of Canada Building consists of a subtle, well-conceived composition of rectilinear volumes that expresses the functional form of the structure and the building’s program. Characterized by regularity and subtle variation, the exterior elevations of the Government of Canada Building are constructed of high quality, non-traditional materials and skilled craftsmanship.
The Government of Canada Building is compatible with the character of its mixed use setting, which consists of a waterfront zone to the west of the building, and a general commercial zone to the east, north and south of the building. The largest and most prominent federal facility in the center of the city, the Government of Canada Building is well known both locally and in the region.
Edgar Tumak, Government of Canada Building, 105 South Christina Street, Sarnia, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 00-20; Government of Canada Building, 105 South Christina Street, Sarnia, Ontario. Heritage Character Statement 00-20.
The following character-defining elements of the Government of Canada Building should be respected.
Its progressive interpretation of the International Style, high quality materials and skilled craftsmanship as manifested in:
-the horizontal massing and composition which consists of simple rectilinear volumes that express the building’s functional program;
-the subtle asymmetrical placement and treatment of the building’s entrances;
-the balanced and slightly irregular modular grid design of the aluminum curtain wall;
-the horizontality and rhythm of the curtain wall’s fenestration pattern which consists of long bands of windows separated by strips of blue porcelain-enamelled spandrel panels;
-the expression of the curtain wall as a “thin membrane” composed of glass and porcelain enamel panels supported by a structural grid of thin aluminum ribs or mullions between each window, and set into bays demarcated by wider, pilaster-like aluminum ribs;
-the non-traditional use of polished, black granite to create the smooth, flat unadorned surfaces of the blind, two-storey accent walls or end walls, the entrance surrounds, the chimney, the penthouse of the elevator shaft, and the foundation line;
-the detailing and installation of the high-polish aluminum curtain wall and blue porcelain-enamelled spandrel panels; and,
-the use of terrazzo flooring and light brown marble on the walls of the principal lobbies and staircases, and polished aluminum for the postal boxes and stair railings.
The compatibility of the building with the mixed use character of this transitional area of the city as evidenced in:
-the building’s visual prominence and strong federal presence owing to its scale, design and materials.