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This view’s days are numbered.

The proposed extension of the Château Laurier lurched one more step towards a bad conclusion on June 26, when Planning Committee approved a motion by the Built Heritage Sub-Committee to accept the current design on the condition that it be made ‘more compatible’ with the historic Château. I know this sounds kind of vague, so I consulted my trusty crystal ball to see what’s in store for the iconic hotel at the heart of our Parliamentary Precinct. Here’s what it told me:

Within hours of my writing this, City Council will approve the Planning Committee’s decision. There will be no meaningful debate or discussion of other options. This has been a sticky and controversial file, but conveniently, this is the last time Council will have to vote on it. Even better (for them), the Council and mayor Jim Watson will have managed to wash their hands of the issue without having had to make a decision on the final design, securing their place in history as the Pontius Pilate of heritage.

The story will then go quiet for several months (apart from a few pesky bloggers). At some point in the early winter – hey, that’s after the municipal election, how convenient! – City staff will unveil another design, and will report that the applicant has shown flexibility and listened to criticism.

The design will be another box.

The box will be shown to the public for one night, and this will be called ‘consultation.’

Built Heritage Sub-Committee will comment (the closest thing to an official role they have left in the process), saying that the design has evolved and that, though imperfect, it fulfils the minimum conditions imposed by City Council.

There will be a public outcry, in which those who have not yet been ground to exhaustion by the process and utter futility of dissent will cogently explain why the box is not just imperfect, but lamentable. This view will be endorsed by a broad range of professional and public opinion. These opinions will have no impact.

The design will come before Planning Committee, which will endorse BHSC’s position that the box meets requirements. One or two will point out that, since this has been submitted to them as a Site Plan application rather than a Heritage one, it can’t be rejected on heritage grounds. So you see, their hands are tied.

The box will be built, and for generations will be reviled as the ugliest building in Ottawa (which it won’t be, but it will ruin what had been one of the most beautiful). Thousands of visitors will come to Ottawa full of excitement at the prospect of staying at the fabled Château Laurier, but will be disappointed to find that their suite is actually in the box, which will be known as ‘Watson’s Folly.’

No developer will ever fear resistance from City Council on heritage grounds again.

Go ahead Ottawa, I dare you – in fact I beg you – to prove me wrong.

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Peter Coffman
peter.coffman@carleton.ca

5 thoughts on “What’s in the Crystal Ball for Château Laurier?”

  1. An ominous and inauspicious future. Now that the politicians are out of the way, perhaps there is a behind-the-scenes professional swaying that can happen?

    1. Mary Anne Sharpe says:

      Hahaha! Nope. Staff think it is “compatible” and recommended it. No sane “professional-behind-the-scenes swaying” will happen here. The architect of this mess, Peter Clewes, is CLUELESS, and should have been fired, as was the very first architect whose design for the original Chateau was judged unacceptable. This building will indeed be a stain on the whole of Ottawa, and will destroy this beautiful building.

  2. Kathy Kilburn says:

    Oh look. They want to put the Chateau in a cage.

    Beyond contempt, beyond inappropriate, beyond hideous.

    I lived in Ottawa for over 26 years, and still consider it my home town. I devoutly hope my canes and I can make it down to stand with others and oppose this grotesquerie.

  3. Beth Scotchman says:

    This design is horrible. It looks like an oversized heating/cooling unit – the industrial kind. It is hugely grotesque in my opinion and does a huge disservice to the grandeur of the Chateau and puts a stain on Ottawa. The architect/designer must live in and work in a box and be surrounded by boxes and rectangles all around him because it appears that is all he can envision and design. I don’t understand why? an historical architect was not called in to take on this project. Someone from Europe perhaps or atleast someone who respects history.

  4. James Maddigan says:

    “That’s ugly!” said my daughter as she walked by and saw what I was looking at on the computer screen. From the mouth of babes. The Chateau appeals more to her inner little princess, and not the box it may have come in. Many people seem to have that inner princess leaning.

    To be fair, the box is good design by itself, but as many point out is contextually challenged, being a “less is more” design aesthetic set against a “more is more” design aesthetic.

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