The following text was formally submitted by Heritage Ottawa to the Built Heritage Sub-committee for consideration at its meeting of June 18, 2018. President David Jeanes also made an oral presentation to the Committee.
To: City of Ottawa’s Built Heritage Sub-committee | Monday, June 18th, 2018
From: David L. Jeanes, President of Heritage Ottawa
Re: CHÂTEAU LAURIER ADDITION
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the Sub-committee, for the opportunity to comment on this application. Our formal submission is contained in the staff report at Document 35.
Heritage Ottawa’s opposition to this proposal is clearly on record. Today, I would like to provide a brief overview of our reasons for requesting that the Built Heritage Subcommittee recommend refusal of this application.
In their report, City staff state that they did not support the three previous design iterations because “they did not respect the cultural heritage value” of this historic property (Staff Report, p.4). Heritage Ottawa agreed with those previous assessments.
In the opinion of Heritage Ottawa, the latest iteration persists in its failure to respect the cultural heritage value of the Château Laurier Hotel and its venerable setting, and there are therefore legitimate grounds under the Ontario Heritage Act for refusal of this application by Ottawa City Council.
If the previous iteration of a horizontal glass box failed to respect cultural heritage value, by city staff’s assessment, it is not clear how a glass box of the same shape — reduced by one storey, only marginally smaller, decorated with bronze and stone — now satisfies that evaluation criteria.
In evaluating this application and previous iterations, the City relies on other guidelines including the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.
With regard to new additions or construction, Standard 11 states “Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to, and distinguishable from the historic place”. (p.23)
While both the City staff report and the Cultural Heritage Impact Statement (CHIS) cleverly argue that the current proposed addition is “subordinate to” and “distinguishable from” the historic Château— both reports are conspicuously silent on Standard 11’s more primary test of physical and visual compatibility.
With respect to visual compatibility, the Standards and Guidelines states “To accomplish this, an appropriate balance must be struck between mere imitation of the existing form and pointed contrast, thus complementing the historic place in a manner that respects its heritage value.” (p.34)
In other words, neither extreme is desirable. And yet, this is exactly what is being proposed — an extreme, pointed contrast — not a balance.
The current proposal fails to explore a broad range of design opportunities that could complement the historic hotel in a compatible way while respecting its heritage value. As you are aware, the cultural heritage value of the Château Laurier property is primarily defined by its picturesque, romantic sensibility.
The test of compatibility is not about a lower roof line, the use of stone, or differentiating the style from the existing hotel — all of which meet the “subordinate” and “distinguishable” tests. Rather, it is about initiating a meaningful, coherent and even romantic dialogue between the existing historic hotel and the new addition.
Approval of the application before us today would demonstrate the City of Ottawa’s keen attention to process, while at the same time demonstrating its complete disregard for the results of that process.
While it is true that under the authority of the Ontario Heritage Act, the City “cannot require a building to be built in a particular style, or by a particular architect,” (Staff Report, p. 12) the City can, under authority of the Act, refuse an application to alter a historic property where that alteration will adversely affect the property’s cultural heritage value.
Although one need not like the design, in order to approve this application, the City must be convinced — and should convincingly demonstrate to the citizens of Ottawa — that the proposed addition not only respects the cultural heritage value of the historic hotel and its unique setting, but that it is compatible with it, while conserving and enhancing its cultural heritage value.
It is Heritage Ottawa’s strong opinion that these tests have not been met.
This latest proposal, like all those before it, continues to threaten the integrity of this heritage designated building and National Historic Site not by being ‘contemporary’, but by being utterly incompatible and contemptuous of the Château’s picturesque, romantic sensibility.
For these reasons, Heritage Ottawa respectfully asks the members of the Built Heritage Sub-committee to recommend refusal of the application to alter the Château Laurier hotel.
Heritage Ottawa Link | Updated June 24, 2018:
LAST CHANCE before Planning Committee and Ottawa City Council vote on June 26 and 27!