Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Embassy of Canada to the United States occupies a prominent site along the processional route between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. Situated amid a series of neoclassical federal buildings, as well as I.M. Pei’s Modernist National Gallery of Art East Building, the Canadian Embassy is the only foreign embassy within the boundaries of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. Abiding by guidelines established in the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation’s master plan, the building by architect Arthur Erickson underwent a lengthy review process to ensure that its design, inspired by the Canadian landscape, complemented the surrounding architecture. Bordering John Marshall Park, which was designed by landscape architect Carol Johnson, the embassy opened in May 1989.
A central, elevated courtyard framed on three sides by this U-shaped building covers more than one-third of the one-acre site. Designed by Erickson in collaboration with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, the courtyard opens widely in two directions: towards Pennsylvania Avenue under a cantilevered building extension and towards the nearby park beneath an enclosed, elevated passageway. The visual link with the park, experienced within the building through stepped roof garden terraces densely planted with hanging assemblages of roses, azaleas, and hawthorn, was specifically intended by Oberlander. At the southern end of the courtyard, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black Canoe by Haida artist Bill Reid, a bronze sculpture previously featured on a Canadian banknote, sits within a curved reflecting pool. Neoclassical motifs appear throughout the site, including a freestanding, 50-foot-long colonnade that runs parallel to the elevated passageway, and a domed rotunda at the southeast corner, with columns symbolizing Canadian provinces and territories.