The front of the Parliament Buildings are one of British Columbia's most recognizable architectural symbols, with the 152.4 metre (500 feet) long facade being visible to anyone who has visited the Inner Harbour of Victoria since the Buildings'
completion in 1897.
With the height of the dome being over 30.5 metres (100 feet) tall, the closer one gets to this impressive structure the more one's eyes are drawn towards the grand flight of stairs in the centre of the Buildings. This is the Ceremonial Entrance, which means that it can only be used the Monarch or visiting heads of state. While monarchs like Queen Elizabeth II or the Imperial family of Japan have used this entrance, it is most commonly used by the Queen's representative to British Columbia, the
Lieutenant Governor, when arriving to deliver the
Speech from the Throne or to grant
Royal Assent. However, since the signing of the
Nisga'a treaty in 1998, Indigenous chiefs from across the province have similarly used the Ceremonial Entrance, as they are the heads of their respective nations and communities.
Pilasters - a type of indented column - line both sides of the entrance and contribute to a sense of majesty and power when one looks upon them. An iron gate blocks the mid-section of the stairs to all except the Monarch or heads of state. Lining the exterior of the entrance are several arches containing fine artistic detailing, with each row appearing as if it were coming out of the pilasters on either side of the entrance, contributing to the overall style of the Parliament Buildings.
Two statues flank each side of the entrance. One is Sir James Douglas, the Chief Factor of Fort Victoria for the Hudson's Bay Company and later the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. The other statue is Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, the first Chief Justice of British Columbia. Other details include a depiction of the year 1895 next to both the statues. While the building was completed in 1897, delays in the construction pushed the completion date for the Parliament Buildings beyond the intended date of 1895. Once this was realized, the year 1895 was already carved into stone. The actual year of completion is carved directly above the Ceremonial Entrance.
Located on the rooftops at either end of the facade are two statues of allegorical women that represent art and science. While they are the only statues depicting women on the front facade, other allegorical women line the rooftops near the
Legislative Library, where they represent subjects like painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Also on the rooftop, directly above the Ceremonial Entrance and at the base of the main dome, is the
B.C. Coat of Arms. Upon the Coat of Arms, the antlers on both the elk and the big-horned sheep (representing Vancouver Island and the mainland of B.C., respectively) are made out of copper, which has oxidized and become the same shade of green as the Buildings' copper domes.
DID YOU KNOW?
In total, the Parliament Buildings have 33 domes, ranging in diameter from 1.83 metres (6 feet) for the two smallest to 16.46 metres (54 feet) for the main dome over the rotunda. From the interior ground floor to the top of the flag held by the statue of Captain Vancouver, the height is 39.6 metres (130 feet), and to the top of the dome inside the Buildings, it is 30.5 metres (100 feet).