It’s a plan more than a century in the making. And the Conservative government blithely ignored it when it designated a 5,000-square-metre property on Wellington Street as the future site of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. So say Robert Allsopp and Lyette Fortin, two key architects of the Long Term Vision and Plan (LTVP) for the parliamentary and judicial precincts.
Allsopp, one of Canada’s leading urban designers, helped prepare the LTVP’s 1987 iteration and its 2007 update. Fortin, who spent 16 years as the House of Commons’ director of architecture strategic planning, participated in the plan’s development and kept the powerful all-party Board of Internal Economy informed about it.
On Wednesday evening, the two will present a joint lecture, hoping to raise public understanding of the LTVP at a time when its integrity is under direct assault from the victims of communism memorial.
Both are dismayed that the government saw fit to plunk a memorial on a site long reserved for a future home for the Federal Court of Canada.
“It has a major, major impact on decades of good, solid, thoughtful planning,” says Fortin.
The LTVP spells out certain principles for the parliamentary and judicial precincts, such as the concept of “pavilion buildings” — buildings that stand independently in the landscape, visible from all sides.
In the judicial precinct, centred on the Supreme Court of Canada, the idea of a triad of buildings, mirroring the three Parliament Buildings, is one of the key principles, Allsopp says. Placing a large monument there scuttles that forever.
Part of Allsopp’s frustration comes from the fact that the current LTVP builds on planning for the parliamentary and judicial precincts that dates back to 1912.
“This latest plan is part of a string going back 100 years or more,” he says. “We’ve been moving in a certain direction. We continue to move in this direction. We shouldn’t be screwing it up.”
Fortin calls the LTVP “a remarkable plan. It’s all-encompassing and it’s integrated. You cannot just take away a piece, because it would jeopardize the plan.”
Moreover, it was developed through “truly exemplary” consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders, she says. By contrast, the government consulted no one before announcing the memorial would go on the Wellington Street site, Fortin says. “It was a unilateral decision.”
The 2007 update, ordered by the incoming Conservative government, had all-party support, Allsopp points out. “Why is it suddenly not such a good plan?”
Fortin had left her House of Commons job before the government announced the memorial site in 2013. “I don’t think it would have happened if I would have been there,” she says.
“There are all kinds of sites that have been identified for commemoration. A most appropriate and proper site can be found which would not impact on an extraordinary plan and break up a plan that is so solid.”
“We’re talking about something that’s incredibly important,” says Allsopp, whose 75-year-old partner, Roger du Toit, an urban designer who also worked on the LTVP, was killed less than two weeks ago in a cycling accident in Toronto.
“This is the heart of the country. It’s the symbolic centre. You treat it with as much care and respect and TLC as you can muster. If people don’t care about that, I’m sorry, but I do. And I think there are a lot of people who do.”
Robert Allsopp and Lyette Fortin will speak about the Long Term Vision and Plan at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at Ottawa City Hall.
For more details, visit the Urban Forum website at urbanforum.ca .
This presentation is supported by Heritage Ottawa.