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Two Letters re: Chateau Laurier Addition
Peter Coffman, Andrew Waldron | October 6, 2018

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From Issue No. 271 | October 8, 2018


IT'S JUST SO ... T.O. DULL

 

ReRelax,Ottawa:The Chateau Isn't Falling (June18): Larco Investments engaged Peter Clewes as the architect of the Chateau Laurier addition. In my opinion, this was a mistake.

 

Not because Mr. Clewes and his heritage architectural consultant, Michael McClelland, are bad architects, but because Larco doesn't appear to understand Ottawa's unique architecture. It is different from the architecture of Toronto, where both architects are more in their comfort zone.

What 1’ve have in the design of the addition to the Chateau Laurier is a decorated shed, on a modernist theme. If the team had unpacked the complexity and sophistication of the original architecture and setting, Larco would be receiving international acclaim. Instead, we are presented with a dull, incompatible box that the architects have even (desperately?) suggested will be invisible in its deference to the grand Chateau: How typically dull Toronto is that!

 

Ottawa is an intensely romantic and sublime city (politically and in other respects), which is what has unfortunately been ignored in the proposal.

Andrew Waldronarchitectural historianheritage conservationistauthor Exploring the Capital: An Architectural Guide to the Ottawa-GatineauRegion

 


SUBTLE IT'S NOT

 

Re Relax Ottawa: The Chateau Isn't Falling June 18): Alex Bozikovic's thoughtful defence of the modernist Chateau Laurier addition overlooks a crucial point: Much great modernist architecture is great specifically because it is very site-specific. Think of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, cascading down the hillside in tandem with the stream it straddles, or any of Wright's broad, low "Prairiestyle" houses.

By contrast, the modernist box proposed by Peter Clewes squats on the ensemble of Chateau, Parliament, canal,cliffside and river with the sensitivity and subtlety of a jackboot in a flower garden. Modernism acquired a reputation for being heavy-handed: That's not fair, but Mr. Clewes's design shows you exactly why it happened.

PeterCoffman,associate professor, History and Theory of Architecture, Carleton University

Editors Notes: These two letters were forwarded by Peter Coffman, following the links to Alex Bozikovic's article.
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