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Chateau Laurier redesign denounced as 'heritage vandalism'

Chateau Laurier addition proposal

An image of the proposed seven-storey addition at the rear of the Chateau Laurier.


The Canadian Press 
Published Wednesday, June 6, 2018 7:34AM EDT 

OTTAWA -- A preservation society is blasting the redesign of an addition to Ottawa's stately Chateau Laurier hotel as "heritage vandalism," but the lead architect on the project says a contemporary approach is the best way to protect the property's history.

Heritage Ottawa fired yet another salvo this week in its ongoing campaign to prevent the proposed glass and metal structure from moving forward at the national historic site.

"Heritage Ottawa remains unimpressed -- and is gravely concerned that the City of Ottawa may be on track to approve what would be the most disgraceful act of heritage vandalism of our generation," the organization said in a statement Sunday.


Chateau Laurier hotel

A rendering of the original 2016 proposed Chateau Laurier addition.

Leslie Maitland, who co-chairs the organization, welcomed some of the modifications in the latest revision of modernist design, which has faced intense backlash since it was first unveiled in late 2016.

The most recent iteration reduces the addition's height to seven stories in order to preserve views of the hotel, according to the City of Ottawa's website, and has also added limestone accents.

But Maitland said the changes aren't enough to overcome the structure's fundamental clash with the chateau's "picturesque" sensibility.

"They come up with several iterations, but they're basically all versions of a glass box stuck onto this magnificent, Edwardian chateau," she said in an interview Tuesday. "They can't even think outside the box."

Peter Clewes of Toronto-based firm architectsAlliance, who is the lead architect on the project, said he shares Heritage Ottawa's admiration for the hotel's whimsical style, but they starkly diverge in their views of the most effective strategy to preserve the property's heritage.

"We're trying to do a building of our time, and we don't want to confuse the cultural history of Ottawa," Clewes said. "We certainly don't want to demean the hotel in any way."

Clewes said designing a structure in the same style of the hotel would likely amount to ahistorical mimickry, and could create confusion about what elements of the property are new, and what has been there for more than a century.

"When you're dealing with a building of national historic significance, you don't want to confuse history," he said. "Our focus has been trying to create a building that's deferential to the hotel, and allows it a clear legibility of the hotel itself -- what is historic and what is new."

The architect said the public criticism of the project has at times been hurtful, but the process of consulting with stakeholders, government officials and citizens has ultimately influenced his team's designs for the better.

Ottawa City Council is slated to discuss the project later this month.

-- By Adina Bresge in Toronto

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  • 1 year later...

Le projet d'agrandissement du Château Laurier ira de l'avant


La motion proposée par le conseiller Mathieu Fleury ne sera pas reconsidérée. Les conseillers ont voté contre cette proposition lors d’une brève séance extraordinaire jeudi, au lendemain de débats houleux concernant le projet d'agrandissement du Château Laurier.

La motion du conseiller de Rideau-Vanier, M. Fleury, visait à retirer le permis patrimonial accordé l’an dernier pour la nouvelle portion du Château Laurier.

Mercredi, les membres du conseil avaient rejeté cette motion, mais la conseillère du quartier Gloucester-Southgate, Diane Deans, avait proposé que la motion de M. Fleury soit reconsidérée.

Après un bref plaidoyer de quelques conseillers en faveur de la reconsidération jeudi, les élus sont passés au vote. La reconsidération a été rejetée par 13 voix – dont celle du maire Jim Watson – contre 10. Dans la salle du conseil, la foule a exprimé son mécontentement en scandant : « Shame! (C'est honteux.) »

Parmi les conseillers ayant voté contre figurent Tim Tierney, Keith Egli, Glen Gower, George Darouze, Jan Harder, Eli El-Chantiry, Matthew Luloff, Laura Dudas, Jenna Sudds, Jean Cloutier, Allan Hubley et Scott Moffatt.

La motion du conseiller Fleury ne sera donc pas débattue davantage, et le projet d'agrandissement du Château Laurier pourra aller de l'avant. 

M. Fleury a indiqué qu'il travaillerait avec le groupe Les Ami.e.s du Château Laurier et Patrimoine canadien pour établir une stratégie. 

Je n’aime pas le fait que certains élus ont arrêté cette discussion-là. [...] On a une responsabilité face à nos communautés. [...] C’est un manque de respect pour l’entité du conseil, a-t-il ajouté en entrevue, à l'issue de la séance extraordinaire.

L'une des membres du groupe Les Ami.e.s du Château Laurier, Maureen McTeer, s'est dite déçue et a fait valoir qu'il y avait toujours quelques options légales pour contester la décision.

De son côté, la ministre de l'Environnement et du Changement climatique, Catherine McKenna, a indiqué que l'on pouvait faire mieux.


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Les conseillers municipaux qui ont voté contre la motion proposée par Mathieu Fleury représentent des quartiers de banlieue qui pour une grande part ne faisaient pas partie de la Ville d'Ottawa avant la mega fusion imposée par le gouvernement provincial.  C'est significatif, et c'est une leçon (un peu tard) pour Montréal.  

Pour Toronto et la Ville de Québec, les fusions ont fait en sorte que les anciennes villes de banlieue qui ont "rejoint" la ville-centre sont plus populeuses (et par conséquent ont une représentation politique plus imposante) que la ville-centre: cela ne manque pas d'infléchir les décisions du conseil, sachant que les préférences et les priorités des habitants des quartiers de type banlieusard sont différentes.

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  • 1 year later...

Latest Château Laurier design pleases heritage group, mayor

'Dramatically altered' design a vast improvement, Heritage Ottawa says

Both Heritage Ottawa and Mayor Jim Watson say they're pleased with the latest design for an expansion of the city's iconic Château Laurier hotel.

According to Heritage Ottawa, the "dramatically altered" design represents a "ground-breaking change" that "will see an end to the widely vilified horizontal bar-shaped structure that blocked the rear view of the historic hotel."

The new design features two pavilions with a low-rise connector, which the heritage group said is "more compatible with the irregular silhouette of the original hotel," and improves views of the building from Major's Hill Park and the Rideau Canal.

Heritage Ottawa also approves of the use of Indiana limestone cladding, as well as copper and bronze elements that reflect "the heritage character-defining elements of the historic hotel."

Larco Investments, which bought the hotel in 2014, submitted the first expansion proposal two years later. It and several subsequent attempts were roundly criticized by the public, politicians and heritage experts alike.

In September 2019, Ottawa's committee of adjustment turned down parts of the design that city council had voted to allow.

In a statement Thursday, Heritage Ottawa commended both Larco and the ordinary citizens who demanded a better design.

"This ground-breaking change of course was made possible by the citizens of Ottawa and by Canadians from across the country who, responding to the absence of government action, joined Heritage Ottawa in its fight to find a better outcome for this beloved National Historic Site."

Mayor Jim Watson also signalled his approval on Thursday.

Watson did not provide a timeline for that decision.

In a separate statement Thursday, Larco said both it and Heritage Ottawa have "agreed to consensually resolve the legal proceedings presently before the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal ... in such a manner so as to permit the revised architectural scheme."

The company said it will resume talks with both the City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission "with respect to the revised design plans."




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