My comments for the latest Chateau Laurier proposal

Château Laurier

This new building, or shall we say addition, would be welcomed in most areas of our City and the high-end use of materials like limestone, bronze and granite would be embraced in any neighbourhood.  However, this contemporary addition to the historic and iconic Château Laurier doesn’t fit with this landmark.

There are many improvements that were presented as part of this latest submission.  These changes are welcomed as they reflect City and community input as part of the comments period, and I want to thank the hundreds of residents who participated over the last few years by submitting their opinions and ideas for this project. I also want to thank City staff who have worked very hard with the proponent on his contemporary style.

As part of the changes that are well received, the connectivity of the ground floor improves the pedestrian experience. Design elements such as windows in the base and entrances will greatly enhance the public realm (along Mackenzie Ave, Major’s Hill Park, and the canal integration) and contribute to a better design for a building that does not have a backyard.  Also, the courtyard, which is created between the existing building and the new addition, completes the surrounding access, and adds to the area’s public space, with special mention to the ‘Spanish’ steps. We also welcome the reduction in height from 12 to seven stories, which does not dwarf the existing iconic building and maintains its architectural dominance. Another improvement has been breaking up the massing on the north façade which gives the appearance of three separate structures from the Majors Hill Park view.  This view has been carefully redesigned with attention to protecting the roof line view of the existing Château Laurier and the meticulous attention to materials, including hiding the elevator overrun on the rooftop of the addition.

However, the vertical nature of the materials and lines overshadow the addition. At times, the breaks in the façade are well received including the Majors Hill Park and the western views, but we feel very differently for the east and north portions.  The integration of the east wall of the Château Laurier with the new north wall of the addition, are overly dominant due to the vertical box-like nature of the materials.

The contemporary approach brings many challenges as described above. In addition, the dominant box-like element of the east and west segments are amplified by the lack of an angular rooftop expression.

Furthermore, the proponent changed their approach by calling the new proposal a new building that would land between the landmark hotel and the addition. We had believed that to be a good step to a stand-alone structure at this location, but the three-storey bank of rooms linking it with the Château Laurier hinders that goal.

As the Château Laurier is Ottawa’s most iconic building within the Parliamentary Precinct, any modern addition, despite all of the height, connectivity and material changes still does not fit the prominence for this location.  This building would be a welcome addition at most other sites in Ottawa, but careful generational impact of this proposal cannot be brushed as a simple zoning process.

I would encourage the committee and council to clearly state the issues relating to –Altering the architectural expression on the north, west and east facades to introduce fenestration patterns, details and geometric proportions that are specifically drawn from and relate to, the existing Chateau Laurier’s elements – the 3rd objective from our motion approved on June 27, 2018 which are not achieved.

Therefore, I am recommending that committee and council reject this proposal.


2 thoughts on “My comments for the latest Chateau Laurier proposal”

  1. Hello. I picked up the Ottawa Citizen this morning to find, on the cover, a rendition of 1451 Wellington Residences at Island Park and lo and behold, it is startlingly similar to the proposed addition to the Chateau Laurier. So, the Chateau Laurier design is nothing new, exciting or cutting edge but rather pedestrian as it — if, God forbid, it is approved — similar to buildings across North America. In other words, nothing special.

    However, the Chateau Laurier IS special. An architectural gem, it must be protected. Larco is interested only in profit whereas the City is responsible for the heritage and legacy of our nation’s capital. Ottawa needs to look to Paris and France for instruction: Notre Dame will be rebuilt sympathetic to its original form.

    Perhaps, Ottawa can employ federal legislation to ensure an addition that is not only aesthetically pleasing but sympathetic to the Chateau Laurier or hold a referendum of the national capital residents. Perhaps force the sale of the Chateau Laurier to a company which will respect its architecture. Perhaps hire it’s own architect to draw a new, more fitting, addition.

    Once it is ruined by a ghastly addition, it’s too late. Ottawa City Council is the steward of the City and therefore, responsible to its citizens, not offshore business.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Excellent points. There may have been some improvements in the design, but the overall vision remains. It is a vision that has not been well received by most in the community. Like you suggested, it would have been a fine addition in other places in the city, but the Chateau is a landmark in the truest sense of the word. We want to display it. I sometimes wonder if it should be left alone.

    The architect seems to prefer to have a modern looking building next to it. Others, who believe that you should not try to imitate a historical building, probably share this vision. Is this a subjective question? I do not know.

    Alternatively, it is possible that he does not have the skills to design something that is not modern looking. It is not a criticism; modern architecture may simply be his specialty (as is the case for most architects it seems). It is definitely challenging to try to build something that integrates well with older buildings. How many people have such skills? That is why it would have been great if they had had a competition with architects that specialize in similar types of projects.

    Ultimately though, whatever is built will block certain views of the Chateau from the park. It is something that we may have to live with. Let us hope they look for other architects that can come up with something that is more compatible.

    Just thinking aloud, I wonder, have the considered building a second, separate hotel on another site?

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