June 4, 2018
Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen
Heritage Ottawa has come out swinging against the latest plans for an addition to the venerated Château Laurier, calling the proposal “the most disgraceful act of heritage vandalism of our generation.”
“The revised design fails to resolve — or even address — the underlying flaw that impaired all of the previous attempts. The angular, blocky massing and style of the proposed addition remains intrinsically incompatible with the romantic sensibility of the historic Château,” the organization said in a statement released Sunday.
The strong reaction came days after the historic hotel’s owner filed a new design for the proposed addition, which attempts to make the contemporary wing complement, not overwhelm, the original building.
A heritage brief submitted with the package from Larco Investments says “limestone fins” on the north-facing side, fronting Major’s Hill Park, will break up the height of the building, which is now proposed to be seven storeys instead of eight.
Larco asked its designers at architectsAlliance to go back to the drawing board after the last vision for the addition, released in February, received a strong rebuke from Heritage Ottawa, which said the design had “all the charm of a box store.”
The main problem with each of the proposed revisions, according to Heritage Ottawa, is one of incompatibility: The Château has an architectural sensibility that conveys a sense of romance, mystery, excitement, unpredictability and splendour, while the modernist addition conveys none of those qualities.
“Although the design has evolved several times, each evolution has found a different way to repeat the same mistake. No amount of refinement of exterior design details can overcome this fundamental incompatibility,” the Heritage Ottawa statement said.
The group argued the addition must also consider the hotel’s unique location immediately across the Rideau Canal from Parliament Hill as it would be visible from these and other sites of national importance, such as the Ottawa River and Major’s Hill Park.
“If an addition to the Château is to be built, nothing less than excellence is good enough,” Heritage Ottawa said, characterizing the proposal as the single most important heritage application considered during this term of council.