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One of the more surreal moments during February’s open house on the proposed Château Laurier expansion was hearing Michael McClelland mansplain that Sophisticated Europeans love this kind of design, and Ottawans really need to get with it.

I actually know a few Sophisticated Europeans, and in fact one of them was in Ottawa recently to give a couple of lectures at Carleton University. Dr. John Goodall is an architectural historian and has been the Architectural Editor of Country Life magazine since 2007. Previous to that he was a Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage. He is the author of many articles and books – including the magnificent 480-page tome The English Castle, published by Yale University Press. So he knows a thing or two about architecture, especially about castles.

While here, he took several walks around downtown Ottawa, guided by Andrew Waldron’s book Exploring the Capital. He was very enthusiastic about the area around Parliament Hill, so I showed him the renderings of the proposed extension of the Château Laurier. Here is his reaction:

The view of the Canadian Parliament across the Ottawa River is emblematic not only of the capital, but of Canada itself. Chateau Laurier forms an important element of this spectacular prospect, its dramatic Gothic outline and detailing acting as a visual foil to Parliament. That this national view should be sacrificed to a clumsily designed hotel extension—literally a massive glass box—ought to provoke a national outcry.

I know a few other Sophisticated Europeans, so I may try to get in touch with them, too. In the meantime, let’s start work on that national outcry.

Peter Coffman
Peter.coffman@carleton.ca

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