‘Ottawa’ Picture Perfect: New OTTAWA Sign Designed to Attract, Impress Selfie Crowd
If everything goes according to Guy Laflamme’s plan, millions of people will come to the nation’s capital this summer and take a selfie downtown in front of a giant sign that spells O-T-T-A-W-A, and is angled in such a way as to have the Peace Tower serve as the backdrop.
Head of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau, Laflamme and others were tickled this week when the six giant red and white letters arrived on York Street in the ByWard Market, where they are intended to be a key attraction once the so-called Inspiration Village — a temporary entertainment hub for Ottawa 2017 — opens May 20.
But if you visit, don’t stand there stoically like a Governor General foot guard. Crawl inside the O. Hang from the T. Balance on the W.
“We want people to interact with them and take funny, amusing photos,” said Laflamme, whose voice then took on a serious, town-that-fun-forget tone to add: “in a safe way, obviously.”
Each letter is 2.56 metres tall (five centimetres shy of the world’s tallest man) and weighs between 68 and 272 kilograms (T is the lightest, W the heaviest). The concrete bases the letters stand on each weigh an additional 450 kilograms.
Neither Laflamme nor Mayor Jim Watson, who visited the market Thursday to inspect the shiny new letters, appeared too concerned that the city-name-in-giant-letters-as-tourist-gimmick is nothing new.
“This is definitely a trend around the world, so we felt this is something we also wanted to do,” said Laflamme, who got hooked on the idea two summers ago when he witnessed how popular the T-O-R-O-N-T-O sign installed at Nathan Phillips Square for the Pan-Am Games was. (The sign was to be dismantled but city officials decided to keep it up after they saw how insanely popular it was with social media users.)
The letters, made of three types of wood, were manufactured in the Ottawa region. “With all the discussions these days about Canadian lumber, it’s great it’s made with Canadian wood,” Laflamme said.
Ottawa 2017 spent $65,000 on the letters and received an in-kind donation from the local company responsible for the slick design.
Jasna Jennings, executive director of the ByWard Market BIA, watched social media fill with pictures of the Ottawa sign when it arrived this week. “Everyone is going nuts over the Ottawa letters,” she said.
Ever the impresario and civic booster, Laflamme was quick to say his favourite letters are the As: “Because we want Ottawa 2017 to be an A+ success.”
Once Inspiration Village closes in early September, Watson wants the letters to move to Ottawa City Hall.
— With files from Jon Willing