• Carole Saad, 50 Sussex

    Ottawa event maven Carole Saad takes the podium at an event at 50 Sussex as part of her latest role. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

Event designer Carole Saad calls 50 Sussex a “game changer.” The new headquarters of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is a building like no other. Built into a promontory at Ottawa’s Rideau Falls, the space boasts floor-to-ceiling views across the Ottawa River to the Gatineau Hills and presents an incomparable backdrop for everything from board meetings to cocktail receptions.

As the new vice-president of events for 50 Sussex, Saad takes on the enviable task of promoting the prestigious venue, and using her considerable creative skills to oversee a diverse range of events.

It’s a role she relishes, and one that she’s uniquely suited for — Saad has been director of Chic & Swell Creative Meetings and Events since 2009 and expanded her event business with the launch of LouLou Lounge Furniture Rentals in 2013. “I have a fantastic team at Chic & Swell and LouLou,” says Saad. “These businesses will complement my role with 50 Sussex.”

Saad, who is well-known for creative event design and polished coordination, sees 50 Sussex as a truly unique venue. “With that view, it feels like a retreat,” she says, adding that the soaring river vistas tend to make guests feel relaxed and engaged. “It’s very zen.” 

It’s also very flexible, with two floors and linked terraces and outdoor spaces allowing planners to design indoor-outdoor events that take full advantage of the magnificent setting.

The street-facing facade of 50 Sussex, the headquarters of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which is also Ottawa's most-exciting new event rental facility. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

Both the main floor gallery and upper gallery feature 14-foot ceilings and dramatic views of the Ottawa River and Gatineau Hills. Each gallery can accommodate about 120 guests for a stand-up cocktail reception, about 80 for a sit-down meal, or up to 60 for a board meeting. An outdoor covered terrace on the main floor and covered balcony on the upper level encourage guests to enjoy fresh air or a drink al fresco.

Expansive gardens at the front of the building make designing events at 50 Sussex even more flexible. This past summer, Saad organized an indoor-outdoor event for 500 guests by setting up a massive clear-topped tent, decorated with strings of lights and chandeliers, on the grounds. “This venue encourages you to think outside the box!” she says.

The third key space at 50 Sussex is the Alex Trebek Theatre, which is often used for presentations. The intimate 280-seat auditorium boasts soaring 20-foot ceilings and two integrated screens. The seats are retractable, allowing the theatre to transform into a large meeting room or dining space after the presentations are complete.

Guests visiting 50 Sussex will see The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and its work highlighted in many ways through the Society’s rotating exhibitions on exploration, history and geography. 50 Sussex is also aptly located at the heart of political Ottawa on Confederation Boulevard, the capital’s ceremonial and discovery route that includes such prestigious addresses as Parliament Hill, the National Gallery of Canada, the Prime Minister’s residence and Rideau Hall.

“Moving into this building has opened up a whole realm of possibilities,” says Saad. “The venue rental is independent of the RCGS, but there will be so many ways to integrate the Society into upcoming events — so many opportunities to explore.” A game changer, indeed.