On March 11, Heritage Ottawa sent a letter of appeal to the president of Larco Investments Ltd., owner of the Château Laurier Hotel, to reconsider their design approach for the controversial addition proposed for this iconic landmark and designated National Historic Site of Canada. The letter was copied to the minister of Canadian Heritage who has responsibility for the National Capital Commission; the minister responsible for National Historic Sites of Canada; the CEO of the National Capital Commission; the Mayor of Ottawa; the chair of the Built Heritage Sub-Committee; and the president of ICOMOS Canada.
Here is the text of that letter.
11 March 2019
Mr. Amin Lalji, President
Larco Investments Ltd.
Suite 300, 100 Park Royal South,
West Vancouver, BC. V7T 1A2
Addition to the Chateau Laurier National Historic Site of Canada: Please Reconsider!
Canadians have been watching the various proposals advanced for an addition on the Chateau Laurier
Hotel with growing concern. As Ottawa’s principal not-for-profit organization concerned with the
conservation and appreciation of Ottawa’s built heritage, this project has our particular attention. We
have engaged with the design team on several occasions to advocate for an addition that respects the
historic character of the hotel, which is a National Historic Site of Canada and a designated property
under the Ontario Heritage Act overlooking the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most recently, the City of Ottawa issued a heritage permit for the project, provided the proponents
return with a design that featured more stone, broke up the monolithic north façade, and harmonized
more appropriately with the historic building.
The latest iteration features more stone and a design based on pavilions, but it is still not compatible
with the historic building, and so fails the third condition of the permit.
This third condition is significant, as it is based upon the guidance in the Standards and Guidelines for
the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, (endorsed by the Government of Canada and the City of
Ottawa) Standard 11, which calls for
Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place. [emphasis added]
The proposal is not visually compatible. It is still the unrepentant and utterly unsuitable box that was
proposed from the very beginning. The unwillingness to revisit the fundamental premise of the design
has been extremely discouraging.
The impact of the proposed addition goes beyond the impact to the historic hotel. The addition will
feature prominently in Canada’s most iconic view, that is, the view treasured by all Canadians of our
Parliament Buildings, the National Gallery, and the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will
be reaching out to the World Heritage Commission to ask if this proposal is a negative impact to the
World Heritage Designation of the Rideau Canal.
A sympathetic addition to the hotel would be a welcome addition to this nationally significant
landscape, and a legacy project any owner would be proud to call their own. Whereas an unsympathetic
addition will mar this landscape for decades and be a subject of disappointment for all.
We respectfully ask that you pause the design process and reconsider. For the future of this iconic
building and its setting.
For more on the proposed addition visit the Château Laurier section of our website.