Château Laurier's latest look 'quite different' from maligned designs: planner

The new look for Ottawa's iconic Fairmont Château Laurier will be markedly different from the much-maligned design unveiled — then quickly covered up again — in 2016.

Design for rear addition released in 2016 widely panned by public, politicians

The latest design for a modern addition to the rear of Ottawa's iconic Château Laurier will be submitted to city staff next week. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

The new look for Ottawa's iconic Fairmont Château Laurier will be markedly different from the much-maligned design unveiled — then quickly covered up again — in 2016.

The original design for the hotel's rear addition to the historic landmark — a modern take that one critic dismissed as "a series of barcodes" — was greeted with disdain from the public and politicians alike.

A second attempt presented in November 2016 bore a striking resemblance to the first iteration.

Designers went back to the drawing board, and are promising a fresh approach. Dennis Jacobs, the principal planning consultant working with the hotel and a former director of planning policy for the city, said the new design will incorporate some of the feedback from both city staff and the public.

"It will look quite different," Jacobs said. "It's been redesigned."
An early rendering of the original design for the Chateau Laurier addition from 2016. (Supplied)

Sightlines preserved

Jacobs was mum on most of the changes, but said while the original design had two wings, the new one will not. He said the new design also does a better job of protecting sight lines to the original building.

Emails from August obtained by CBC through municipal access to information legislation give a glimpse of what may be included in the new design, though Jacobs said the design has changed since then.

The emails suggest the new design will feature more separation between the old historic hotel and the new addition, which will appear to be a neighbour rather than an extension of the same building.

The ground floor has also been changed to include more public space, including meeting rooms.

The documents show general support for several of the new design elements from the working group of city heritage and National Capital Commission staff assigned to work with Château Laurier planners. 

"Their architect and their planners have been a delight to work with," said Sally Coutts, senior heritage planner for the city. 

Public given extra time to weigh in

Jacobs said he's expecting the new design to be submitted to the city next week. Once the documents are deemed complete they'll be made public.

Because of the huge public interest in the building, city staff plan to give extra time for people to weigh in before council votes on the proposal in the spring. 

"Based on what we've seen so far, I think we'll see a great interest in the application," said Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, chair of the built heritage sub-committee. "We certainly saw that when the first version of the renderings came out."

The addition will replace the crumbling parking garage that's marked for demolition.