The third permanent accommodation (1996)


In the early 90s, ICAO had outgrown the old building on 1000 Sherbrooke Street, at that time owed by Monit International Inc.. Staff had grown from 490 in 1970 to 595 in 1990. ICAO’s success was evidenced by the dynamic and sustained increases in the number of States adhering to its Convention after the decolonisation in Africa and the collapse of the countries in East Europe; the number of States Members had grown from 119 in 1970 to 162 in 1990, whereas in the same time the number of members of the Council had been increased from 27 to 33. The 600-seat Assembly Hall could no longer accommodate all the delegates in attendance (including non-member states and observers), with the spill over forced to listen in on closed circuit TV. The building on Sherbrooke was no longer well enough equipped to meet future needs, in terms of electronic security and print shop. Since the early 90s, the Government of Canada, as host of the Organization, perceived the needs for more suitable accommodations for ICAO.


Commercial cover sent to ICAO, 999 University Street, Montreal

Initially, it might have asked if moving was the best solution to ICAO’s space problems. When ICAO moved in 1975, the total site area included an open piece of land (some 10,000 sq. ft.) on the west side of the building, which became the International Aviation Square (Place de l’Aviation Internationale) or ICAO Plaza; however leasing arrangements permitted this land to be sold in 1988 by the owner of ICAO building for the site of the Scotia Bank (a 27-floor office building), thus eliminating any possibility of expansion of ICAO’s building, and precipitating a series of environmental (e.g. air quality) and security problems for the Organization.


Owned by Westcliff Group and the Canapen Group (Canadien National), the new and current premises (a 100-million project) located at 999 University Street (at the corner of Avenue Viger Ouest) and named La Maison de l’OACI, whose unique architectural design admirably captures the dynamics of the Organization, was occupied by ICAO in October 1996 and officially inaugurated on 5 December 1996. Ken London Architects was the prime architect responsible for the base building design, while Provencher Roy Associés was responsible for the overall design of the interior space and common areas. Rented by the Government of Canada for 20 years, the new complex encompasses an area of 40,000 square metres, for 350,000 square feet of rentable space. Flanked by the flags of ICAO, Canada, and local governments, the complex is located along a prestigious gateway into Montreal and contributes immeasurably towards unifying and structuring the city’s downtown urban fabric. Severe challenges in terms of air quality, noise, vibration, site serenity and security were presented to the engineers, as the building site is located directly over the westbound and eastbound tunnels of the Ville-Marie Expressway. Two separate steel and concrete structures, a 15-storey office tower and a 5-storey conference block, are joined by a dramatic glass-covered atrium, flying bridges and criss-crossing escalators. The result is a delicate balance of transparency and continuity, in a classic yet modern environment. Limestone and precast concrete represent the strength of the Organization, while back-painted textured glass permits natural lighting to wash the walls with a delicate filtering effect.


More information on the ICAO Building can be obtained by clicking on the following link: ICAO Launches Headquarters, excerpt from the First Choice Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 2,  Winter 1996-1997.


On 29 February 2008, a plaque was unveiled in the lobby of ICAO Headquarters to officially recognize the LEED-EB Gold certification of La Maison de l’OACI, the head office of the International Civil Aviation Organization located downtown in Montréal. This was the first time for an existing building in Canada and a premise of the United Nations family to receive this distinction. The LEED-EB (Leadership in Energy and environmental Design for Existing Buildings) Gold certification is awarded by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The prestigious building thus meets the standards of the Gold classification, which is recognized internationally as the benchmark in property management and construction in terms of both energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. As manager and co-owner (with The Canapen Group), The Wescliff Group has demonstrated its commitment to taking a leadership position in finding property management solutions that not only optimize energy efficiency, decrease resource consumption, and reduce waste but also increase occupant health and well-being. The work for certification began in 2066 with a strategic study commissioned by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), the tenant of La Maison de l’OACI; it represented a significant challenge and several modifications were made to the building in terms of lighting, plumbing, ventilation, water use, recycling, maintenance processes and methods, and operations. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) established benchmarks for the LEED Green Building Rating System in 2000.


It is also worth noting that this was the second major recognition earned by La Maison de l’OACI; at BOMEX® 2000, the building won the Office Building of the Year Award from BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association), at both the provincial and national levels. La Maison de l’OACI has also been ISO 9001 certified since 1998.


Following the adoption of a resolution by the Board of Directors of the Montreal Transit Corporation (STM) on 2 April 2014, the name of the metro station Square-Victoria was changed to Square-Victoria-ICAO. Due to the presence of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Montréal has become a major hub of civil aviation, a highly significant status for a metropolis with a well-developed industry. To mark the beginning of Montréal activities surrounding the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Chicago Convention and the establishment of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the City of Montréal and the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) announced on 14 November 2014 the official renaming of Metro Station Square-Victoria to Metro Station Square-Victoria-OACI; a commemorative plaque marking the importance of ICAO’s presence in Montréal was unveiled during the ceremony and is displayed inside the station, right after passing the turnstiles.


At the meeting of 15 September 2014, the City Council of Montréal adopted a resolution to rename Boulevard Robert-Bourassa the section of Rue University between Notre-Dame West and Sherbrooke West, to pay tribute to Robert Bourassa, Premier of Québec from 1970 to 1976 and from 1985 to 1994. The resolution took effect six months later, on 15 March 2015. The Rue University name change is effective as of that date and accordingly, ICAO’s headquarters are now located at 999 Boulevard Robert-Bourassa.


The headquarters of ICAO in Montréal are not simply office buildings or conference centers. If they are to symbolize the Organization they house, they must also have some of the qualities of a museum. ICAO has gradually acquired outstanding works of art. The Guided Tour of ICAO Art Collection as shown by the following link (The ICAO Art Collection) reveals a remarkable collection of art and artefacts donated or loaned by the Organization’s Contracting States and displayed in the building as of 2002. It is to be noted that some the artefacts have been moved to the ICAO Museum further to its opening in 2014, resulting in the reorganization of some others.


Cover commemorating the inauguration of the new Headquarters premises on 5 December 1996.


Excerpt from the Linn’s Stamp News dated 3 February 1997, page 45.




Pictures (by Bernard Pelsser, 2017) showing ICAO Headquarters.



Street name signs at the corner of Boulevard Robert-Bourassa (previously Rue University) and Avenue Viger Ouest), Montréal.


La Maison de l’OACI – Photo: Graham Hughes, La Presse Canadienne.


Main entrance to La Maison de l’OACI at 999 Boulevard Robert-Bourassa.


ICAO Emblem at the entrance to the present headquarters, 999 Boulevard Robert-Bourassa.


Plaque unveiled on 29 February 2008, in ICAO’s lobby,

for the LEED GOLD 2001 certification of La Maison de l’OACI

by the US Green Building Council.