The Globe and Mail: Relax, Ottawa: The Château isn’t falling

Architecture critic for The Globe and Mail, Alex Bozikovic, shares his thoughts on the Château Laurier addition. To view the article in PDF format, click here. To view the article on The Globe and Mail website, click here (subscription required):

Below is an excerpt from the article:

“The addition, in its current form, is a respectful and respectable piece of architecture.

New additions to the place should be considered with an appropriate, and not excessive, degree of deference. And Mr. Clewes, a self-described “passionate modernist,” uses exactly that language. “I think what you want to do here is be fairly deferential,” he told me this week. “This is about doing something quiet and understated, but beautifully and richly detailed.” The current seven-storey version lives up to that billing. It is short enough not to obscure the hotel’s famous frilly roof from Major’s Hill Park. It also engages with the park, elegantly so: the glass skin of the building is concealed behind an irregular grid of vertical limestone fins that will echo the limestone of the Château’s base.
Many ambitious designers today are exploring new ways of adapting forms and ornament from architectural history. I can imagine the Château with a new, playful addition that puts a contemporary twist on the fairy-tale original. In the hands of, say, Shim-Sutcliffe or Hariri Pontarini, it could be very special. In lesser hands, it could be a disaster.
But Larco Investments has gone with Mr. Clewes, who in his Toronto work has shown himself to be extremely competent at making Modern boxes. Now the Château is likely to get something polite and quiet, which will be distinguished in its details – of the façade, of the ground floor, of the landscape, of the roofscape – are finely resolved.
There’s an opportunity for something good to come out of this, now that thousands of Ottawans are paying close attention to a piece of contemporary architecture. Larco and Mr. Clewes will be under pressure to bring God to the details. And, equally, ordinary observers may get the chance to learn that a box can be beautiful, and that there’s more than one way for a culture to move forward.”

– Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail