The Château Laurier, a prominent Ottawa landmark since 1912, is clearly a special place.
A National Historic Site of Canada and a designated structure under the Ontario Heritage Act, the Château fronts onto Rideau Street in the historic centre of our nation’s capital. Its unique and spectacular site also overlooks the heritage-designated Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Château Laurier is prominently visible from these and a multitude of other key vantage points in the capital.
Along with the Parliament Buildings and the National War Memorial, the Château Laurier is an important component of the heart of our nation’s capital, cherished by Ottawans and visitors alike.
It is critically important that any new addition to the Château Laurier respect the heritage character of the original building and its environs.
Representatives of Heritage Ottawa attended last week’s public presentation of revised designs for a proposed addition to the Château Laurier, hosted by hotel owner Larco Investments and the project architects.
The design revision included an overall size reduction of 8% and slightly increased setbacks on both the Mackenzie Avenue and Rideau Canal sides of the building. The overall appearance of the proposed addition, which sparked immediate public outcry when first presented in September, remains essentially the same.
Heritage Ottawa’s position on the proposed addition, as presented in September, remains essentially the same as well. The current design of the proposed addition is incongruous with the heritage character of the Château Laurier and its environs.
Bluntly stated, the proposed addition resembles a contemporary condominium. Located elsewhere, the proposed design might be appropriate for a freestanding residential building. As an addition to Ottawa’s Château Laurier, the currently proposed design is inappropriate and stands to forever compromise iconic views of Canada’s capital.
A proposed addition to the Château Laurier will likely be the most important heritage application to come before this session of Ottawa City Council, and possibly the most important heritage application in the city of Ottawa of this generation.
If an addition to the original Château Laurier is to be built, getting it right is of critical importance.
In the interest of developing a compatible design proposal, Heritage Ottawa proposes the formation of a working session design charette. Invitees should include representatives of larger community stakeholders, including Heritage Ottawa, a heritage planner and a heritage landscape architect familiar with the National Capital. The session should be chaired by an eminent heritage conservation architect.
The Château Laurier is too important a building, at too important a location, to settle for anything less than a solution of architectural excellence that honours the original building’s heritage value, and contributes to the further enhancement of the Nation’s capital.
Until a design is produced that meets these criteria, any Château Laurier expansion project should not be permitted.
Update: Read Heritage Ottawa's position statement of March 5, 2018 regarding the latest proposed addition to the Château Laurier.
Read Heritage Ottawa's initial statement of September 2017 regarding the proposed addition the Château Laurier here.