‘Ottawa’ Château Laurier revised additions ‘inappropriate’ and ‘incongruous’: Heritage Ottawa
The proposed expansion of the Château Laurier should not be allowed to go ahead in its current form, Heritage Ottawa says.
The critique comes a little more than a week after the owner of the hotel and its team of architects unveiled a revised design following an original plan that sparked public outcry two months earlier.
In an open letter posted on its website, Heritage Ottawa says the proposed additions to the Château resemble a modern condo and, as such, are “inappropriate” and “incongruous” with the historical character of the iconic hotel.
Larco Investments Ltd., the owners of the Fairmont Laurier in Ottawa, held a public consultation on Nov. 17, and a 3D scale model of the revised design was unveiled for the first time.
While the height and size of the proposed additions, which would sit at the back of the east and west wings of the hotel, were scaled back by about eight per cent, the overall design did not change.
“I would say we’ve refined it. But no, it has not changed in any substantive way,” Peter Clewes, principal of the Toronto-based firm architectsAlliance and the lead architect behind the proposed design told the Citizen at the time.
Some modifications were also made to the façade and the roof of the building.
According to Heritage Ottawa, “The current design of the proposed addition is incongruous with the heritage character of the Château Laurier and its environs.”
“Bluntly stated, the proposed addition resembles a contemporary condominium. Located elsewhere, the proposed design might be appropriate for a freestanding residential building. As an addition to Ottawa’s Château Laurier, the currently proposed design is inappropriate and stands to forever compromise iconic views of Canada’s capital,” said the open letter, which was posted Sunday.
Heritage Ottawa is a non-profit group made up of volunteers committed to the conservation of historic buildings in the city. It is proposing that a group of experts be formed and an intensive planning session be scheduled to come up with “a compatible design.”
It said the session would be chaired by “an eminent heritage conservation architect” and the group made up of various community stakeholders, including Heritage Ottawa, a heritage planner and a heritage landscape architect familiar with the national capital.
According to Heritage Ottawa, the Château is too important “to settle for anything less than a solution of architectural excellence that honours the original building’s heritage value, and contributes to the further enhancement of the nation’s capital.”
“Until a design is produced that meets these criteria, any Château Laurier expansion project should not be permitted,” Heritage Ottawa said.
The rules for the conservation of historic places in Canada say any proposed additions must be compatible with the old without mimicking what is already there.
Clewes, an award-winning architect, has acknowledged there is a fine line between the two.
“What we’re trying to do within that continuum is find a careful balance between making a connection to the past and making a connection to the future. And you know, it’s a tricky business. We will continue to work on that,” he’s told the Citizen.
Art Phillips, the director of development for Larco Investments Ltd., which owns the Château Laurier, postponed a formal application to the city so his team could hear from Ottawa residents first.
The city will have to approve the design and, because the hotel sits on federal land, the National Capital Commission will also have a say.
If approved, construction would begin in the fall of 2017.