The new glass lantern is a strikingly visible addition to the front of the Canadian Museum of Nature. It graces the top of the main entrance where a four-storey stone tower stood before its removal in 1915–16.
Facilitating Visitor Flow
This new glass structure is more than an aesthetic addition: it serves an important function. The lantern will house a much-needed staircase, allowing visitors to move easily from floor to floor.
The original design of David Ewart, Dominion Chief Architect, provided public access to only the second floor, via the grand staircase in the atrium.
Looking to the Past
The original tower was intended to be the focal point of the building. Regrettably, the tower had to be removed because unstable soil conditions would not support the massive weight.
Nearly 100 years later, plans were made for a "tower" facing Parliament Hill. And at the same time, a way to improve visitors' access to the upper floors was needed. But, modifications to the atrium could not be made because of the atrium's heritage character. The architects conceived of the lantern space in the spirit of Ewart's tower, which could enclose a set of stairs. The resulting butterfly staircase extends from the second to the fourth floors.
A Spectacular View
From inside the lantern, visitors can gaze onto Metcalfe Street towards Parliament Hill. Turning around, they can appreciate up close the stone carvings and ornamentation that adorn the museum's exterior walls. From the outside, the lantern is a modern yet elegant feature that heralds the 21st-century renewal of the museum.
The lantern actually hangs from a specially constructed roof that is cantilevered from new concrete walls inside the building. Unlike the original heavy tower, it does not impose any weight on the existing masonry walls. Four large steel columns provide the structural support for the roof. Hanging from the roof are 160 panes of face glass and 120 glass "fins". The glass forms a transparent box.