HERITAGE OTTAWA | Response to Latest Design for Proposed Addition to Château Laurier | March 2019

Rendering: architectsAlliance

Monday, March 4, 2019


For more than two years, Canadians have been witnessing with growing concern a sequence of various design proposals for an addition to the Château Laurier Hotel, a National Historic Site of Canada.

Last June, in an effort to move things forward, the City of Ottawa issued a heritage permit for the project subject to three conditions to make the addition "more visually compatible with the existing Château Laurier":

  • increased use of Indiana limestone to reduce its contrast and create a more visually cohesive relationship with the Château;
  • break up of the uniformity of the north façade using elements and forms that relate to the Château; and
  • modification of the design for visual compatibility with the historic hotel, by referencing such elements as patterns, details and proportions of the Château Laurier.

These conditions were expressed in a motion of the Built Heritage Sub Committee that was later adopted by Planning Committee and Council.

The proponents’s design response to the conditions was unveiled last week. Although it features more limestone and breaks up the north facade with the arrangement of pavilions and glass, it remains incompatible with the historic building, and so fails to meet the third condition.

This third condition is significant and non-negotiable, 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) at Standard 11, which states:

“Conserve the heritage value and character defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place of any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to, and distinguishable from the historic place.” [emphasis added]

At its meeting of Friday, March 1st, the Urban Design Review Panel identified a problem with the current proposed design in calling for better harmonization with the historic building.

Heritage Ottawa has engaged several times with the hotel owner’s team of architects and consultants in an effort to see them develop a design that respects the Château Laurier’s heritage character and its iconic, nationally significant setting overlooking the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cultural heritage value of the Château Laurier is primarily defined by its picturesque, romantic qualities. Passing the test of compatibility requires a meaningful, coherent and sensitive diaglogue between the existing hotel and the new addition, which the current proposed design fails to do. It remains the unrepentant and utterly unsuitable box that has been proposed from the very beginning.

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 — the view treasured by all Canadians of our Parliament Buildings, the National Gallery, historic Major's Hill Park, the heritage-designated Ottawa River, and the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site over which it stands.

A sympathetic new addition to the Château Laurier could be a welcome element to this nationally significant landscape and a legacy project which, like the Château itself, could be treasured for generations to come.

The apparent unwillingness to revisit the fundamental premise of the proposed designs has been extremely discouraging, to say the least.

The current proposed design fails to meet the conditions upon which the City of Ottawa's conditional heritage permit was based.

Heritage Ottawa strongly encourages and appeals to the proponents to revisit the design in a more substantive manner that respects both the historic Château Laurier Hotel, and its iconic setting at the very heart of our nation's capital.


The City of Ottawa is inviting public comments on the Château Laurier addition until March 18, 2019.

CLICK HERE to send your comments to the City of Ottawa.

For additional renderings and more information, CLICK HERE to visit the City of Ottawa's website.