Outside the box

One of the design concepts for the proposed addition to the Chateau Laurier by Carleton architecture students Teagan Hyndman and Lauren Liebe. The students’ designs will be on display at the Hintonburg Community Centre December 8 and 9. PHOTO: COURTESY OF P. COFFMAN

An exhibition of alternative designs for an addition to the Château Laurier

By Peter Coffman

Ever since the first design proposal for an addition to the Château Laurier was unveiled over two years ago, frustrated Ottawans have been asking, “Can’t it be something other than a rectangular box?” Now, students at Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism have answered that question with a resounding “yes!” The public will be able to see the students’ designs for an addition to the Château in an exhibition sponsored by Heritage Ottawa that will run December 8 and 9 at the Hintonburg Community Centre and see just what is possible when one thinks outside the box.

The students’ work grew out of a third-year design assignment that was the brainchild of Carleton architecture professor Mariana Esponda. As the outcry against the proposed design grew, she sensed an opportunity for her students to flex their creative muscles. “I told them their designs had to have a dialogue with the Château that the proposals we’ve seen so far haven’t had,” she says. “It was a wonderful opportunity for the students to see how they could create a better design.”

In response, the students have produced a remarkable array of drawings, models and plans, all of which will be on display at the exhibition. What they all share is a deep respect for the bold, picturesque forms of the historic hotel and a desire to harmonize with those forms while also contributing something new and original to the mix.

I organized the exhibition because it was obvious to me that the public really cares about this building, but the conversation we’ve been having has been stunted by the very narrow range of design ideas that have been offered. The students’ designs are a breath of fresh air, full of thoughtful and creative ideas. For the first time, Ottawans will have multiple concepts to consider and I think they will be amazed by what they see. Hopefully, this will spur the conversation that we should have been having for the last two years.

Peter Coffman is a Heritage Ottawa board member and supervisor of Carleton University’s History and Theory of Architecture program.

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