OTTAWA - Candidates in Ottawa’s urban wards are far more likely to indicate support for policies aimed at improving the city’s architecture and urban design than candidates in suburban and rural wards, a poll suggests.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the national professional association which advocates for excellence in the built environment, asked mayoral and council candidates for their position on five questions related to design quality, the environment and heritage.
Of the eight mayoral candidates, only two responded – Bernard Couchman and Anwar Syed. Of the 124 candidates for City Council, just 39 expressed their opinion.
“It’s regrettable that there’s so little apparent interest in architecture and urban design from the mayoral candidates, given this the capital of a G8 country,” said Allan Teramura, FRAIC, RAIC regional director for Ontario North, East and Nunavut.
The vast majority of respondents – 31 – were in urban wards. Suburban and rural wards yielded just four responses each. A second mailing, directed to them, pointed out that good design can enrich suburban life as well and that the protection of agricultural landscapes is a heritage issue.
“There’s a very high level of interest in these issues in urban wards, with most candidates providing strong statements of support,” says Teramura. “It’s possible there could be a half-dozen or so councillors with an interest in design. It’s still a minority, but it’s a start.
“I understand that many people get involved in municipal politics because of issues in their immediate community, but in an amalgamated city, councillors have to be prepared to understand and deal with issues far from where they live,” says Teramura. “This is a challenge for both urban and rural councillors.”
The RAIC asked candidates to state whether they agree or disagree with the following statements (in bold).
- On design quality: while a number of landmark buildings have been erected in Ottawa recently, they are all built by federal institutions. While even very small municipal projects across Canada regularly receive major awards and international media coverage, the City of Ottawa's generally do not. We believe this can and must change. Ottawa, as Canada's capital, must show national leadership in the quality of the architectural design of projects built here. If elected, I will advocate for making achieving architectural design excellence a top priority for City of Ottawa projects.
- On the hiring of architects: in many jurisdictions, commissions are awarded on the basis of the outcome of design competitions in order to foster design excellence, but also to support talented emerging practices. The result is better design, greater public awareness of the value of design, and better value for money spent. When the City of Ottawa invests in public buildings, architectural design quality should be the primary consideration in preparing procurement strategies for design services. I would support the use of design competitions for significant municipal projects.
- On the environment: buildings are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. The RAIC is sponsoring the 2030 Challenge, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the built environment by 2030. Attaining carbon-neutral status for all Ottawa buildings by 2030 is a key priority for me.
- On heritage: Ottawa has a rich architectural heritage, and often this inheritance is unnecessarily at risk. Today, this is particularly true for post-war buildings and environments. If elected, I will support initiatives to rejuvenate our urban streets and spaces, and make them more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.
- On urban design: For many years city streets have been designed to give priority for motor vehicles. Today, to make alternate means of transportation such as walking, cycling, and public transit more appealing, and also to improve the quality of life generally, many cities are re-thinking these assumptions. The “Complete Streets” movement is one example. If elected, I will support initiatives to rejuvenate our urban streets and spaces, and make them more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.
Teramura notes that Ottawa is undergoing many changes today. Important issues affecting Ottawa's urban landscape are being debated, including the possibility of building a new main library, increasing pressure to intensify mature neighbourhoods and the continuing development of LeBreton Flats. With the events of Canada’s sesquicentennial coming soon, the spotlight will be on Ottawa, nation-wide.
“While I would not expect new candidates from rural or suburban wards to have many strongly held opinions on issues that primarily affect the downtown, I would have thought that incumbents would, having had a few years of grappling with them,” said Teramura. “And yet there was relatively little response from these candidates.”
(The six incumbents who replied are David Chernushenko, Peter Clark, Mathieu Fleury, Katherine Hobbs, Bob Monette and Marianne Wilkinson.)
Here is a sample of responses. ( For the complete responses from all respondents, please see the PDF document at the end of this article.)
Ottawa, as Canada's capital, must show national leadership in the quality of the architectural design of projects built here. If elected, I will advocate for making achieving architectural design excellence a top priority for City of Ottawa projects.
“I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Particularly here in ward 12, the historic heart of the nation’s capital, where we have had bestowed upon us a number of landmark buildings from our forebears, we must find ways to press the private sector into a much higher standard of architectural excellent for new projects.” - Marc Aubin, Ward 12, Rideau Vanier
“As a rapidly growing community, it is essential that much of the development focus in this ward be on issues of design and build in order to ensure compatibility with existing neighbourhoods and the preservation of the character of the community.” - David Lee, Ward 6, Stittsville
When the City of Ottawa invests in public buildings, architectural design quality should be the primary consideration in preparing procurement strategies for design services. I would support the use of design competitions for significant municipal projects.
“There is too much use by the City of terms like “landmark architecture,” particularly when evaluating development applications, when what they really mean is “this is big.” When the City builds anything major, a design competition should be a given. We need buildings in Ottawa with a “wow factor.” - Jeff Lieper, Ward 15 Kitchissippi
“There is great opportunity for innovative and creative project work. Ottawa is a national destination and focus internationally. Therefore, we need to be more entrepreneurial and seek resources through competition. This approach will inspire excellence.” - Sheila Perry, Ward 13, Rideau-Rockcliffe
Attaining carbon-neutral status for all Ottawa buildings by 2030 is a key priority for me.
“The ideal of zero-emission buildings is already achieved in the newest model buildings… Building efficiency will always be a natural goal and a goal I support.” - Edward Conway, Ward 14, Somerset
“I applaud RAIC’s stance on promoting this challenge and yes; I will keep this as a key priority.” - Anwar Syed, Mayoral Candidate
If elected, I will be an advocate for Ottawa's built cultural heritage.
“I am proud of the unique heritage that the region and its buildings have to offer and wish to see it properly maintained so that future generations can also enjoy it safely.” - Trevor Robinson, Ward 7, Bay
“I’m already working on this for the Beaverbrook community as built cultural heritage is more than just individual buildings and is not only for older buildings. It also can apply to infrastructure, e.g. the Valour Bridge.” - Marianne Wilkinson, Ward 4, Kanata North
If elected, I will support initiatives to rejuvenate our urban streets and spaces, and make them more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.
“I am especially partial to attaining carbon neutral status and creating a useful and vibrant biking and pedestrian community.” - Francesca D’Ambrosio, Ward 11, Beacon Hill-Cyrville
“This is an urban-focused issue and in my mind only serves to illustrate the urban-rural divide in issues and access to funds for services. For rural residents, we find the blatant narrow residential streets of suburbs a direct affront to those with need of vehicles… “ - Allen Scantland, Ward 20, Osgoode
Responses were received from candidates in nine urban wards ( 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18); four suburban wards (1,4,6, 22) and one rural ward (20).
ABOUT THE RAIC
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada is a voluntary national association, representing 4,800 members. The RAIC advocates for excellence in the built environment, works to demonstrate how design enhances the quality of life and promotes responsible architecture in addressing important issues of society.
For more information please contact:
Maria Cook, Manager, Communications and Advocacy, RAIC
613-241-3600 Ext. 213