PLANT Architect: The Canadian Firefighters Memorial officially opened on September 9, in Ottawa. Located at the site of the capital’s devastating fire of 1900, this urban-planning memorial ensemble was collaboratively designed by PLANT Architect Inc. and Canadian visual artist and novelist Douglas Coupland. The team won the national competition hosted by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) and the National Capital Commission (NCC) in 2010.
A symbolic landmark of our nation’s capital region, the memorial park honours the fire service of fallen Canadians, creates an intimate space for personal reflection, and provides a home for the CFFF’s Annual Memorial Ceremony each fall on Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats.
As a mis-en-scéne of “characters” integrated into the Canadian landscape, the Canadian Firefighters Memorial embodies key aspects of our nation’s heritage, and shapes, enhances, and inspires experiences of ritual performance. Both to fulfil the purposes of ceremony and procession, and to navigate visitors through the space, a series of architectural, sculptural, and landscape interventions were introduced: the central ceremony area is defined and framed by the site’s two opposing landforms, leading visitors along the Name Wall to the base of the Dedication Pine Tree.
The project’s iconic design features a 2 1⁄2 times life-size bronze Firefighter statue, 60 foot-high Firepole, a Dedication Pine Tree, Sloped Grove, and stone Name Wall. The Grove features sugar maple trees set amongst dense plantings of seasonally changing shrubs and perennials that achieve full red vibrancy during the fall months, creating a thick red carpet of foliage. The granite Name Wall stands as an abstract interpretation of the Canadian map and provinces—its surface carved with the names of fallen firefighters. During the Memorial Ceremony each autumn, the newly engraved names of the recently fallen are shroud in black ribbon and unveiled during the ceremony. Within this larger ritual space lies a series of smaller, more intimate areas designed to foster introspection and support personal remembrance. The Sitting Nook and Reflection Garden are spaces of pause, allowing visitors to pay tribute to their fallen friends, family, and colleagues.
Deeply rooted in Canada’s political and physical landscape, the Canadian Firefighters Memorial explores the ways in which narratives of “home” and “nation” are constructed publicly—specifically through its iconography, design, and visual representation of Canada’s national heritage. The design of this new memorial park also considers the use of metaphor in ritual performance, prompting visitors to discover new ways of thinking about, and personally processing, experiences of memory, loss, and remembrance.
Architects / Designers: PLANT Architect Inc. in collaboration with Douglas Coupland
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Client: Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) in collaboration
with National Capital Commission (NCC)
Project manager: Mary Tremain, Partner, PLANT Architect Inc., GB Associates
Design team: PLANT Architect Inc. — Mary Tremain, Lisa Rapoport, Chris
Pommer (Partners; Architects) | Vanessa Eickhoff (Associate; Landscape Architect; OALA) | Suzanne Ernst | Jeremy McGregor
Collaborators: Douglas Coupland (Artist)
Engineers: Blackwell Bowick Partnership Ltd. (Structural Engineering)
Novatech Engineering Consultants Ltd. (Civil Engineering)
Goodkey Weedmark and Associates Ltd. (Electrical Engineering)
A.W. Hooker Associates Ltd. (Quantity Surveyor)
Contractor: Prestige Design & Construction Ltd.
Lighting design: Suzanne Powadiuk Design Inc.
Surface: 3,000 m2
Project end date: September 2012
Photographer: Steven Evans | Linda Matta | © PLANT Architect Inc.