Written in the Stone - An Architectural Tour of the Canadian Museum of Civilization



Parc Laurier had much to recommend it. By far the biggest of the five sites, it had some 9.6 hectares (24 acres); although, to escape the risk of the river flooding, not all the site was useable for building. It is bounded by Laurier Street, on the ceremonial route, on its western side; across the road from the south-west corner stands the Maison du Citoyen. Frontage here is 405 metres (1328 feet). On the south side was Eddy Forest Products (now Scott Paper Limited). At the other end of Parc Laurier is the adjacent Parc Jacques Cartier, linked by a pedestrian pathway; this is recreational parkland, equipped with a marina. Soaring over the boundary between the two parks is the Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge, a plaqued heritage structure; it is like a great ceremonial arch over one river entrance to the Core Area, linking CMC with the National Gallery at its other end.

Canadian Museum of Civilization Site - CD95-720-093
CMC's site is bounded by a pulp products factory, downtown Gatineau, the Alexandra Provincial Bridge, and the Ottawa River, all of which have a story to tell in the history of the National Capital.
Illustration by Marc Lincourt

© Canadian Museum of Civilization, CD95-720-093

The 'jewel in the crown' is the eastern boundary, facing onto the Ottawa River. The low-lying park slopes gently down to the river across a depth whose median is 235 metres (770 feet); the slope is about 5.5% from Laurier Street, which is at an elevation of 53.5 metres, to the river, at an elevation of 41 metres. The high-water level (47 metres, based on a worst-case, 100-years recurrence) means that almost half the depth of the property is vulnerable to flooding; but this still leaves room for a sizeable building. The direction of the slope guarantees a sunny exposure, especially in the morning. More significantly it provides a sweeping panorama of the river and the Ottawa side of the Core Area.

Riverside Park - T2004-225, CD2004-1378
Crowds of thousands can gather in the riverside park to watch events such as the Canada Day fireworks, performances on a temporary riverside stage, or events on the river itself.
© Canadian Museum of Civilization, T2004-225, CD2004-1378

Parc Laurier is quite well served by physical access routes. Principal vehicular access is off Laurier Street, linked by bridges with either side of downtown Ottawa. A pedestrian and bicycle path cuts across the park, at the river-edge, and connects to trails which not only circle around the river in the Core Area but also network outwards in several directions across Ottawa and Gatineau. Both these and the ceremonial route itself link up a series of green spaces developed for the public adjacent to the city's watercourses. Parc Laurier is one such space. Although the building of the museum resulted in some loss of parkland, the park was very underutilized, nor was there any significant vegetation there to be lost.

River-edge Path - CD2001-59-051
The museum as seen from the river-edge path.
© Canadian Museum of Civilization, CD2001-59-051

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