Rendering for the new design with the east pavilion in the foreground.
Better, but still needs work.That’s the conclusion of Ottawa’s urban design review panel on the new design for a controversial addition to the Fairmont Château Laurier.Larco Investments wants to expand the historic hotel with more long-stay rooms and meeting spaces. But the process, which began in December 2016, has been dogged by critics who compared the original design to a bar code or a condo building.The addition needs approval from the city because the property is protected by provincial heritage law. City council approved the demolition of a parking garage on the site in January 2018 and granted a conditional approval for a heritage permit last summer on the condition that Larco continues to refine the design.A new design was filed last week. Tweaks for the seven-storey addition included increasing the use of stone, making architectural references to the original structure of the hotel and breaking up the massing of the addition to add visual interest.The new plan includes two asymmetrical pavilions that would anchor the northeast and northwest corners of the addition, linked by a connector clad in a glass curtain wall framed in bronze. The connector has an entrance with a glass-clad atrium.The new design also uses significant amounts of Indiana limestone and granite. The pavilions would be bound in vertical limestone piers and granite slabs would be used extensively on the ground level.“It would be built out of beautiful materials with masterful details,” Robert Cadeau, a senior associate with architectsAlliance, which is designing the building, told the members of the independent advisory panel.
Rendering for the new addition. The west pavilion faces Parliament Hill.
The addition “references” the Château with a pattern of windows (voids) and building materials (solids) that reflect the ratios and patterns in the original building. The courtyard would feature blossoming trees and landscaping that makes reference to the formal gardens of a French château with a series of parterre gardens.“It’s important that the Château still takes centre stage,” Cadeau told the panel.But members of the panel expressed concerns about the glass connector and how it would look with curtains and furniture, and at night when people moving inside are more visible.Heather Rolleston, an architectural designer and a design director at Quadrangle Architects Limited in Toronto, said the design could take more cues from the heritage building. The glass is too prominent and the contrast between the modern elements and the Château is “a bit too jarring,” she said.Panel chair David Leinster, a landscape architect and partner at The Planning Partnership in Toronto, said there were a lot of good ideas in the new design. The panel supported the height of seven storeys — scaled back considerably from the original plan — and the massing. The west pavilion, which faces Parliament Hill, is “very successful,” he said.But the east pavilion needs some work and the base should have a more solid expression so it appears to be grounded, not floating, said Leinster.Cadeau told the panel its advice was very constructive. “We realized from the outset how challenging this project is,” he said.David Flemming, the co-chair of the Heritage Ottawa advisory committee, said the advocacy group had more concerns over the first three iterations of the design, but the addition is still too boxy.“We still have some of that, but it looks like they made some effort to address that. It doesn’t flow as much as we would like. What they did was tweak various things.”Members of Heritage Ottawa, a volunteer group, will go over the new design submission in detail over the weekend.“We have to decide whether the tweaking comes close to what we would like,” said Flemming, who added that the Château is a designated historic site, and a new addition that is not compatible could jeopardize the designation.The next steps in the project will roll out in the coming months.City staff are to prepare a site plan report to present to the city’s built heritage sub-committee for a decision by planning committee this spring.If approved, Larco can then seek NCC approval. The city’s committee of adjustment must make a decision on the minor variance application before Larco can begin firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @TomSpears1 ALSO IN THE NEWS:The peoples’ verdict: ‘To hell with’ the NHL on LeBretonIs LeBreton Flats cursed?Police seek woman, 24, missing since August