The winning plan for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Memorial was on display on Sept. 9 in Ottawa. The monument is scheduled to be unveiled in 2012. ((Kate Porter/CBC))

A design from Douglas Coupland and a Toronto architecture firm has been selected for a national monument in Ottawa to Canadian firefighters who died in the line of duty.

Coupland, known chiefly as a novelist (Generation X, jPod ), submitted a proposal along with Toronto-based architecture firm PLANT Architect, which will build the monument.

The design, titled "We Were There," features a giant fire hall pole that acts as a lightning rod, protecting a tree and monument underneath, with a bronze statue of a firefighter pointing to the names on the monument.


A bronze statue of a firefighter and firehall pole will be key elements of the winning design of Vancouver writer Douglas Coupland and Toronto design firm PLANT Architecture. ((Kate Porter/CBC))

"I wanted the monument to convey deep emotion and simple dignity," Coupland said in a statement. "I want people to eat their lunch there, read, play with their kids — and each time they do so, a small part of themselves will reflect on firefighters and what they do every day when they go to work."

The monument, expected to be completed and unveiled in March 2012, will be located at LeBreton Flats, near the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The National Capital Commission donated the land for the monument.

Firefighters praised the design, which incorporates the names of all of their fallen colleagues over the years, saying it will finally give families a national memorial to visit.

"The closure for those families is just gonna be amazing for them to actually come and see their loved ones' names on a wall," said Wayne Jasper, a member of the fire and rescue service at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on Vancouver Island.

'There's so many different facets of firefighting, and I think this looks like it's gone out and able to englobe all of that' —Firefighter Gary Barnes

"What’s beautiful about this is the challenge for the artist was to be able to encompass all of the people, because we have wildland, municipal, military, industrial — there's so many different facets of firefighting, and I think this looks like it's gone out and able to englobe all of that," said Gary Barnes of the Gatineau, Que., fire department. "I think it's really beautiful."

The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the charity working to build the monument, says more than 1,000 firefighters have died in the line of duty in Canada since 1848. 

The foundation will hold its annual memorial ceremony for fallen firefighters Sunday on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where fire departments will pay tribute to their members who have died on duty in the last year.

A jury of art design professionals and foundation representatives chose the winning design for the monument from a group of five finalists who were asked to submit proposals.