February 5, 2015
by Canadian Architect
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) respectfully requests that the site chosen for The National Memorial to Victims of Communism be reconsidered.
The proposed location, adjacent to the Supreme Court of Canada, represents Canada’s democratic values and respect for justice. We believe this land should be reserved for a building whose purpose, quality and dignity are commensurate with its context.
Any addition to this immensely significant national site should reflect the impartiality and apolitical aspirations of Canada’s justice system. We believe this site should be representative of all Canadians, just as the principles of Canada’s judicial system speak for all Canadians.
The Long-Term Vision and Plan (LTVP) for the Parliamentary Precinct and Judicial Precinct evolved through decades of consultations with leading architects, urban designers and landscape architects. It does not prescribe a monument on the contested site, but a suitably scaled building.
The LTVP prepared by Public Works and Government Services Canada and endorsed by the National Capital Commission (NCC) establishes the site as a vital component of Ottawa’s “Capital Plateau.” Overlooking the Ottawa River, this precinct encompasses the heart of Canada’s parliamentary and judicial functions. We support the intention for the “Capital Plateau” and believe it is rooted in enduring ideas about urban design and building a capital city.
The LTVP also articulates the importance of a “Parliamentary Triad” and a “Judicial Triad.” These evocative settings consist of splendid architecture framing the parliamentary and judicial lawns facing Wellington Street, which is also part of Confederation Boulevard and Ottawa’s ceremonial route.
As everyone knows, the Parliamentary Triad is complete with the Centre, East and West Blocks firmly established as an iconic expression of Canada’s democracy.
However, the Judicial Triad is yet to be realized. The Supreme Court of Canada, designed by Ernest Cormier, lies to the north; the Justice Building, designed by Burritt and Horwood Architects, to the east and the parcel in question to the west.
A third building that harmonizes with the Supreme Court in terms of height, materials, detailing and relationship to the street would maintain the beauty and meaning of the site.
The RAIC believes that only a building of the scale and urban presence of the Supreme Court of Canada, such as the long-planned Federal Court Building, accomplishes the goal of a Judicial Triad. If not a Federal Court Building, then an architecturally significant national institution or an expansion to the Department of Justice could also successfully compose a Judicial Triad.
In addition, this property is a potential site for additional offices or committee rooms for Parliamentarians. Removing this site inhibits the ability to create an expanded secure precinct that can absorb future growth of Parliament as required by population growth. To provide office space in future means leasing or acquiring land on the open market.
Recent reports indicate that the NCC’s Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty did not support the choice of site. The committee recommended an alternative, equally prominent, and fitting site for the memorial – the Garden of the Provinces and Territories located 300 metres to the west.
Such a decision would not affect the monument’s design and orientation. In fact, the Garden of the Provinces and Territories would offer a contemplative setting in which to commemorate and learn about the millions of people affected by cruel political regimes.
The RAIC supports the NCC design committee’s recommendation and requests that the National Memorial to Victims of Communism finds a home in the Garden of the Provinces and Territories.
For more information, please visit www.raic.org.