NCC to preserve iconic Gatineau Strutt House as public pavilion

Gatineau’s iconic Strutt House, lauded by National Capital Commission (NCC) CEO Mark Kristmanson as “a unique 20th-century architectural treasure in the national capital,” will be preserved, rehabilitated and opened as a public pavilion in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in 2017.

Kristmanson made the announcement Monday, formally signing a lease with the newly created Strutt Foundation, which will oversee the work and is in charge of raising money for the project.

Work will begin this summer, and though the nearly 60-year-old house is in remarkably good condition, the foundation expects the conversion will cost between $250,000 and $300,000. When complete, the house will focus on the theme of conserving modern architecture and be used for seminars, public meetings and displays on modern-built heritage.

Lesley Strutt never thought of the house she grew up in as an architectural icon, but she loved that she and her siblings had the forests of Gatineau Park outside the back door. She took over the house after her father, architect James Strutt, died in 2008.

“As a child, you take things for granted,” she said. “We were little wild creatures and we’d just head out into the forest any time we wanted. It was part of our natural playground.”

She sold the house to the NCC for $340,000 in 2010 and urged the commission to preserve it. “I said, ‘This is not your normal house. This is not an average house…it should be open to people.’”

James Strutt built the house on the Eardley Escarpment at 1220 Chemin de la Montagne in 1956 for $15,000. Its daring architecture and dramatic location soon made it a social hub in the capital. Guests included then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau, US architect Buckminster Fuller, famous for geodesic domes, and Canadian artists Michael Snow, Jack Shadbolt and Eleanor Milne.

“All the kids were shipped off (during the parties) so I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I did hear that Trudeau was leaping off the stones and into the pool,” Lesley Strutt said. “He was a very athletic man, so it’s easy to believe.”

James Strutt was fascinated by building strong, but lightweight structures using the bare minimum of materials. The dramatic roof—the first “wooden hyperbolic paraboloid structure” in Canada—for example, is only five centimetres thick. A 2012 study by the NCC said the Strutt House “has the parsimonious quality of an aircraft frame and the feel of a ‘Prairie Style’ home by Frank Lloyd Wright.”

By Blair Crawford of the Ottawa Citizen. [email protected]

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