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Architects ask feds to relocate communism memorial

Richard Gilbert
Architects ask feds to relocate communism memorial
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Ontario Association of Architects are recommending to the federal government that a Memorial to the Victims of Communism should not be located next to the Supreme Court of Canada and the Justice Building. They suggest the proposed monument be located down the street at a site next to an existing garden. -

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) are asking the federal government to change the proposed site in Ottawa for the construction of a national memorial to the victims of communism.

"Very simply, this is a parcel of land that is just in front or diagonal to the Supreme Court of Canada and it is really a piece of land of national significance," said Ian Chodikoff, executive director of the RAIC.

"In order to dedicate a monument, whatever the monument, there is a duty of care and respect to the Supreme Court and the value of the Supreme Court, as a political and neutral judiciary that is representative of all Canada."

Public Works and Government Services Canada made a decision in May 2012 to allocate a piece of land in downtown Ottawa, on Wellington Street just west of the Parliament Buildings, to a non-profit organization named Tribute to Liberty.

This prime piece of land situated between the Library and Archives Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada is the proposed site for a memorial to victims of communism.

According to Chodikoff, RAIC doesn’t usually get involved with local issues because they are a national organization.

However, the members of RAIC feel compelled to make a statement about the proposed site of this memorial because the Supreme Court is an important symbol of democracy and the legal system in Canada, the association stated.

"It would be no different if they put that monument on Parliament Hill in front of the Peace Tower," said Chodikoff.

"There is a Judiciary Triad in Ottawa, just as there is a Triad for the Parliament with the East, Centre and West Block.  There is a planking there that completes the space in front of the Parliament and creates a Parliamentary District. To dedicate a monument to a specific cause is something we feel is not appropriate."

The Long Term Vision and Plan (LTVP) for the Parliamentary Precinct and Judicial Precinct in Ottawa identifies the site of the proposed memorial to victims of communism as a vital component of a Judicial Triad.

However, the Judicial Triad is yet to be realized.

"Ontario architects support the value of a long-term plan that recognizes the importance of vision and the need to complement the existing built form in a way that reflects some of the most symbolically important, and architecturally significant buildings in Canada," said Toon Dreessen, president of the OAA in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Supreme Court of Canada lies to the north, while the Justice Building is located to the east and the parcel in question to the west.

The LTVP, which was produced by Public Works and Government Services Canada through decades of consultations with architects and urban designers, does not prescribe a monument on the site.

Instead, the LTVP recommends a third building be constructed that maintains the national meaning of the site and harmonizes with the Supreme Court in terms of height, materials, detailing and relationship to the street.

"There are also practical issues here too, because the land is quite valuable and to be giving the land over to a monument is probably not that financially responsible in these given times," said Chodikoff.

"If the government ever did decide to add more office space, it would have to find a piece of land elsewhere in the downtown core, which would cost at least $20 million. Whereas, they already own this land and it is north of Wellington Street, so it is in the security perimeter of the Parliamentary and Judiciary District."

Chodikoff said there is no good reason to give away a valuable piece of land to a monument that doesn’t really add any purpose or function to the government’s operations.

RAIC and the OAA are suggesting that the monument should be located down the street at a site next to an existing garden.

"The alternate location nearby has many merits, not the least of which is reducing the conflict and contention around the current site selection," said Dreessen.

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism will serve as a public reminder and honour more than 100 million people who lost their lives under communist regimes, as well as recognize the experience of more than eight million Canadians who trace their immigration story to communist countries.

The National Capital Commission is responsible for the construction of the monument which was scheduled to start in fall 2014.

Once construction is completed, ownership and maintenance of the monument will be transferred to Public Works and Government Services Canada.

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