Many of you will have read about Barry Padolsky’s open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the Château Laurier. Here is the letter in full, with illustrations, reproduced with Mr. Padolsky’s permission.

Ottawa’s Château Laurier today (from Key View A, Major’s Hill Park)

Ottawa’s Château Laurier tomorrow with proposed addition (from Key View A, Major’s Hill Park)



Barry Padolsky B. Arch., M. Sc. (Urban Design), OAA, FRAIC, CAHP, RCA
Member, City of Ottawa Built Heritage Sub-Committee

July 1, 2019

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

On this Canada Day, I am writing to you on the matter of the proposed controversial architectural addition to Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier Hotel.

As you may be aware, Larco Investments, the hotel owners are planning a rather prominent expansion to this iconic architectural and historic landmark in the heart of the National Capital.

The proposed architectural design has horrified many Canadians for its unsympathetic visual impact on the picturesque heritage values of the Chateau Laurier, a National Historic site.

In case you were not aware, the proposed addition impulsively disregards our national design standards that require new architectural additions to be compatibile with our heritage landmarks (Parks Canada Standards and Guidelines for Historic Places in Canada, 2008).

The proposed addition, an architectural box, aptly named the “radiator”, will also visually intrude into the treasured viewscapes of the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Canadian one dollar banknote (1973) captures one of these iconic views.

If this visual intrusion weren’t enough, the proposed expansion will cleverly conceal the views of Ottawa’s beloved Chateau from Major’s Hill Park, where untold thousands of citizens gather daily to admire and enjoy the beauties of our Capital.

A quick glance at the two images attached to this letter should suffice to illustrate the “before and after” makeover of this romantic view from Major’s Hill Park, identified as Key View “A” by the NCC. For your information, the “after” view is not exaggerated. The proposed 7 storey hotel addition is 97 metres long, almost the length of the Redblacks football field at Lansdowne Park.

Sadly, Mr. Prime Minister, the City of Ottawa has already approved this architectural eyesore, despite the fierce opposition of thousands of citizens (including heritage scholars and the City’s Built Heritage Sub-Committee).

And sadly, Mr Prime Minister, the National Capital Commission (created to foster and protect the character of the National Capital) has claimed that it has no authority to intervene on a privately owned property in the Parliamentary Precinct.

If you are ( I hope ) now concerned about this imminent act of visual vandalism in the heart of our Capital, please intervene.

First, convene a meeting with the Hon. Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multculturalism (responsible for the NCC) and the Hon. Catherine McKenna MInister of Environment and Climate Change (responsible for Parks Canada) and quietly suggest that they find a way to protect Parliament’s wonderful visual setting by demanding (and enforcing) a revised design for the Chateau’s expansion.

Second, invite the owners of the Chateau Laurier, the reclusive billionaire Lalji family, (who also own a portfolio of major office buildings in Ottawa rented by the Government of Canada), to voluntarily redesign their addition to our cherished Canadian heritage landmark. A national design competition could bring untold esteem to their reputation and a design worthy of our National Capital.

Remembering that Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier’s Dominion government sold a part of Major’s Hill Park in 1909 to enable the construction of the Chateau Laurier, I wonder what he would think today about the current prosaic proposal to remake the Chateau’s architectural identity?

Sir Wilfrid promoted the vision of an Ottawa as a “Washington of the North”: a Capital that would inspire generations of Canadians.

The vision for the new Chateau Laurier just inspires dismay.

Sincerely yours,
Barry Padolsky B. Arch., M. Sc. (Urban Design), OAA, FRAIC, CAHP, RCA
Member, City of Ottawa Built Heritage Sub-Committee

Photo Credit (Image 1): Julie Oliver, Ottawa Citizen .
Architectural Credit: Original Chateau Laurier (1912): Ross and Mc Farlane Architects based on
design by Bradford Lee Gilbert Architect;
Architectural Credit: First Addition (1927): John S. Archibald Architect;
Architectural Credit :Proposed North Addition: Architects Alliance (2019);
Graphic Credit (Image 1 and Image 2) Barry Padolsky Associates Inc Architects (2019)