Canadian Firefighters Memorial

Ottawa
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Photo © Steven Evans Photography
Architects
PLANT Architect Inc.
Location
Ottawa
Year
2012

In 2010, PLANT, in collaboration with artist Douglas Coupland, won the national competition to design a new Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa. The Canadian Firefighters Memorial is part of an urban-planning memorial ensemble – a mise-en-scène of “characters” integrated into a “Canadian Landscape” and connected with the Canadian War Museum. This memorial park was designed to memorialize fallen firefighters and to provide a place for their annual Ceremony Service on Ottawa’s Lebreton Flats. The project has been integrated into Ottawa’s Firefighter Memorial Service route, leading visitors through the site to the Parliament Buildings.

Public space embodies the cultural heritage of a community by shaping, enhancing and inspiring experiences of ritual performance. The Canadian Firefighters Memorial was designed to function as a ceremonial space for community gathering and collective remembrance, as well as for personal reflection, enjoyment and daily use. To fulfil the purposes of ceremony and procession, a series of key design elements intended to navigate visitors through the memorial space were implemented: Two opposing landforms enclose and define the central ceremony area, guiding the visitor along the Name Wall through to the base of the Dedication Pine Tree. The Crystalline Landform emerges from the street, culminating as a cliff-face at the ceremonial area.  

To create a place for personal reflection within this larger ritual space, a series of intimate places intended to foster introspection and meditation were developed. The Sitting Nook and Reflection Garden are spaces for collective and personal pause, allowing visitors to honour those whose lives have been lost.

The design features a 2½ times life-size bronze Firefighter, a 20m Firepole, a White Pine Tree Rock, a Sloped Grove, and a Stone Memorial 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. The granite Name Wall stands as an abstract interpretation of the Canadian map – its surface carved with the names of fallen firefighters. During the September service, newly engraved names of the recently departed are shroud in black velvet, revealed during the ceremony and given to the widow(er).

Deeply rooted in Canada’s political and physical foundation, the Canadian Firefighters Memorial explores the ways in which narratives of “home” and “nation” are constructed publicly – specifically through its iconography, design and embodiment of national heritage. This project also considers the ways in which metaphor participates in ritual, allowing for the discovery of new ways of thinking about, and personally processing experiences of memory, loss, and remembrance.

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