July 25, 2016
by Canadian Architect
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is delighted that the Ottawa 2017 Bureau and the City of Ottawa have decided to adopt the RAIC’s proposal to reclaim public space on York Street. Thanks to an innovative pairing of ideas – RAIC’s idea to re-imagine the space and Ottawa 2017’s concept for Inspiration Village – it will become an important event space for Canada’s 150th celebrations from May to September in 2017.
Ottawa 2017 has announced that Inspiration Village, a hub for special exhibits and performances, will be located on a section of York Street, between Sussex Drive and ByWard Market Square, in the ByWard Market.
“This will give Ottawans an opportunity to try out the idea of having a large, urban square in a central location, something we all enjoy when we visit other great cities,” says RAIC President Allan Teramura, FRAIC.
“Because it’s full of parked cars now, we tend not to notice many of the space’s interesting and unique features, such as the axial view of the Parliament Buildings, and the monumental staircase at the western end,” says Teramura.
Teramura notes that the proportions of that section of York Street are similar to Rome’s Piazza Navona, one of the world’s most celebrated urban spaces.
“The proportions of the space are ideal,” he says. “Its relative narrowness means the centre is not too far from the facades, giving it a sense of enclosure, while its extreme length means several events could be happening at the same time without interfering with each other,” he says.
“My expectation is that once people get used to being able to enjoy York Street as a public square, they’re not going to want to see it revert to a parking lot,” he says.
The structures in Inspiration Village will be built of sea containers – a sustainable, cost-effective and flexible building material that is capturing imaginations around the world.
To obtain a project that demonstrates design excellence, the RAIC will assist Ottawa 2017 in selecting the successful proponent to design and build the project through a request-for-proposals process. This includes soliciting local architects to serve on a design review panel to review the proponents’ submissions.
The idea that York St. between Sussex Drive and Byward Market Square was an underutilized urban space with a lot of latent potential came to Teramura a couple of years ago, when he was parking his car on the top level of the nearby municipal parking garage.
“The proportions of the space, its axial view of the Peace Tower, and the York Street Steps at the west end all suggested to me that it was ‘almost there’ as a great urban square,” he recalls. “It has the potential to be a civic square equal in attractiveness and character to any.
“Later, it occurred to me that the unusual proportions of the space are similar to those of the Piazza Navona in Rome,” he says. “I did a quick Google Earth/Photoshop exercise and was amazed to find out how similar their proportions are.
“Ottawa 2017 was exploring locations for Inspiration Village when we presented them with public piazza concepts for York Street,” says Teramura. “In working together, we realized that that this would be a great site for it, as it is always busy and full of people.”
Today, the space is used to park 100 cars. In 2017, the re-imagined space will enable residents and visitors to benefit from a broader expanse of pedestrian space.
Inspiration Village will be launched in time for the start of the 2017 Festival of Architecture, another RAIC undertaking that is designed to engage the public as well as architects from across the country, which will take place in Ottawa from May 24 to 27, 2017.