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Reflecting on our year in architecture
December 30, 2010 | Maria Cook | Ottawa Citizen
Reflecting on our year in architecture
From new-look McDonald's locations to the Ottawa Trainyards, Maria Cook asked a panel of experts to vote on the best and worst of new architecture and urban design in the city.

Despite cranes dotted around the city, relatively few new buildings actually opened their doors to the public in 2010.

There was lots of talk: Lansdowne, light rail and a new central library. But, with infrastructure money flowing and a tight deadline to spend it, more seems to have been built below ground than above.

The Citizen asked a panel of seven local experts to nominate the best and worst of new architecture and urban design in Ottawa.

Our panel: Adrian Gollner, an artist interested in architecture; Anne Carlyle, an award-winning interior designer; Yves Gosselin, an architect and urban design consultant; Ian Chodikoff, editor of Canadian Architect magazine (grew up in Ottawa, based in Toronto); Graham Murfitt, chair of the Ottawa Regional Society of Architects; Paul Kariouk, an architect and professor at Carleton University; and Evan Thornton, editor of


1. Canadian Museum of Nature (Nominated by Ian Chodikoff and Anne Carlyle)

The castle-like building reopened in May after an eight-year restoration by PKG Joint Venture Architects.

Highlights of the $216.6-million rehabilitation are a 20-metre glass tower known as the lantern and the atrium's renewed heritage interior.

"The renovations delight the visitor," says Chodikoff. "Even for this jaded critic who has spent many a childhood class trip looking at dinosaur bones and learning about the behaviour of wolves and caribou.

"Along with new improvements and additions to its south facade, the building's heightened presence ... exudes a sophistication that lays the foundation for a dignified public park."

Carlyle calls the stairway in the lantern "a magical space that seems to slow down time. While visually overlooking the city, and providing vertical circulation between crowded exhibit spaces, it is mysteriously peaceful and quiet.

"It seems to inspire respect and hope, and feelings of connection to the museum, to the city, perhaps even to humanity and nature, all at the same time," she says.

"At night, fixtures cast light up the glass walls, celebrating and reflecting off structural steel cables in a truly beautiful visual rhythm. The mix of new glass and steel and smooth white marble stairs with rough-hewed old limestone and stained glass is an exciting and lovely metaphor for a museum that strives to make history and nature relevant today and in the future," says Carlyle.

"The new steel structural skeleton that reinforces the old stone walls and the indoor climate control system are state of the art, designed both to secure this noble old building on its bed of Leda clay and to sustain treasures of the collections," she adds.

"Even the donor recognition panels that wrap the walls of the stairway on one level are well-designed, attractive and thoughtful, unlike so many installations of this genre which are brash and out-of-proportion."

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