Heritage Ottawa: Letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Responsible for NCC | Château Laurier

Rendering: Larco Investments

Thursday, July 25, 2019


On June 10, Heritage Ottawa submitted the following letter to the Hon. Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, responsible for the National Capital Commission (NCC), urging the minister to direct the NCC to re-engage in the design approval process for the proposed addition to the Château Laurier.

10 June 2019

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage, responsible for the National Capital Commission
Sent by email to: Pablo.Rodriguez@canada.ca
Re: Château Laurier National Historic Site of Canada: National Capital Commission Involvement

Dear Minister Rodriguez:

Given the significance and prominence of the Château Laurier in the National Capital, and the responsibility of the federal government to protect this site, Heritage Ottawa strongly urges you to direct the National Capital Commission to re-engage in the design process for this structure.

Heritage Ottawa has communicated our concerns to the National Capital Commission and we have been told that they have exhausted their terms of engagement. We dispute this, on the basis of an historic involvement of the Government of Canada in the design of this structure and its environs.

Up until now federal governments have not shied away from involvement in the development of this iconic site. Sir Wilfrid Laurier brokered a dispute between the presidents of the two railways about the building’s location. The Federal government provided the land, taken from Ottawa’s oldest public park. City Council made limestone cladding of the park façade a condition of the 1909 building permit. The government in 1966 gave more of Major’s Hill Park for car parking in compensation for the loss of railway access to the hotel. The NCC owns and has developed the canal-side terrace, which is leased in part as a hotel amenity.

Architects over the years have respected the original design by the architectural firm of Ross & MacFarlane. In 1928, architects John S. Archibald and John Schofield’s Mackenzie Avenue addition followed the style of the Château’s corner pavilions, circular tower, windows, roofline and decorative elements, while adding a large square tower as a new central feature.

The 1967 parking garage respected the materials and style of the Château, continuing its ground floor arcade along the canal façade. More recently in 2000, architects at Arcop proposed an addition that copied the pavilions and roof style of the original building and added a third circular tower to match the existing towers. (This addition was approved but not built.)

The 1915 Holt Commission, which included leading Canadian architect Frank Darling, recommended the Château’s style for government buildings across Canada, including the 1927 Confederation building, 1935 Justice Building, the Quebec City Post Office, and even elements of the 1916-1920 reconstruction of Parliament. With interventions by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, the Château influenced the roof style of the Bank of Canada, Central Post Office, Supreme Court, East and West Memorial buildings, and Lord Elgin Hotel.

The Château Laurier has also influenced hotel styles across the country. Its architects designed the château-style hotels at the Fort Garry in Winnipeg and the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton. Other examples include the Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix, the Bessborough in Saskatoon and the Hotel Vancouver. Inappropriate additions to such buildings have occurred in the past. For example, an out-of-scale box was added to the Château’s sister hotel, the Macdonald in Edmonton, in 1953. The château-style hotel remains as a landmark in the city, but the box was demolished in 1983. The Manoir Richelieu and the Empress in Victoria have received much more sympathetic additions.

In conclusion, governments and government agencies have always been closely involved in the planning and development of this hotel, a National Historic Site that is provincially designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. Successive architects have respected the need for compatibility with the original building and the importance of its location at the edge of Ottawa’s oldest public park, along Confederation Boulevard, beside and as part of the designated views of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site, and as an element of the Confederation Square National Historic Site.

In recognition of the pivotal role the Château plays in the visual composition of the capital, in 2008, the NCC prepared the Château Laurier Urban Design Guidance, “to ensure that any future addition to the building can only be considered if it can maintain the heritage and visual qualities of the composition.”

Governments and government agencies, including the National Capital Commission, should be working closely with the owner and architect for a more compatible design for the addition.


Heritage Ottawa

Cc: The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister for Environment and Climate Change,
      responsible for Parks Canada and National Historic Sites of Canada.
      Senator Serge Joyal
      Mr. Tobi Nussbaum, CEO, National Capital Commission
      Mayor Jim Watson, City of Ottawa



Contact the Mayor and Ottawa City Councillors before July 10, 2019.

Click here for details: https://heritageottawa.org/chateau-laurier-addition