Pivotal moment for architecture in wake of Château Laurier plans

Rendering: Larco Investments

Saturday, July 13, 2019

CBC RADIO | THE HOUSE, Chris Hall

An architectural historian says the contentious planned addition to the Château Laurier could be the wake-up call Canada needs to better protect historic buildings.

This week Ottawa city council upheld last year's heritage approval for a new wing at the national historic site overlooking Major's Hill Park, despite some fierce political manoeuvring over two days.

Critics and passersby have called it a box, a bunker and said it looks like U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall.

Peter Coffman says it's almost unthinkable this could happen in Canada's capital city, to a building so integral to Ottawa's skyline.

"Imagine this happening in Washington or London or Paris [it] would be absolutely unthinkable, the prospect wouldn't even be raised," he told The House.

Coffman says Canadian regulations protecting historical sites are extremely weak. But there could be a silver lining.

"This could be the big wake up moment for for heritage in Canada and heritage architecture."

MPs, government organizations and private companies have debated the hotel's proposed addition for months.

The design would "dramatically change the view" of downtown Ottawa, especially from the nearby Major's Hill Park, Coffman warned.

But the precedent is more concerning to him than this particular case.

"If our heritage laws allow this to happen to the Château Laurier, than who's safe?"

 

CLICK HERE  to hear the segment on CBC NEWS | THE HOUSE: If the Château Laurier can't be protected - what can?

Ottawa City Council refused this week to overturn a controversial expansion of the iconic Château Laurier Hotel in spite of an intense public backlash to the box-like design of the addition. Architectural historian Peter Coffman explains how much Ottawa's sightlines are about to change. And he argues that Canada needs stronger rules in place to conserve its historical sites.