Canadian National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa Open to Public

The National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa
The National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa

Last Thursday, September 28, 2017, was the first day that the public had access to the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa. The monument was opened the day before. I cycled out to check it out and took photos for those who can’t make it to the monument.

Special Act of Parliament

I learned that the project was started by 18 year old Laura Grossman who thought it was a disgrace that there was no Holocaust monument in Canada. Originally scheduled to open two years ago, it was delayed by some construction issues but finally, on September 27, 2017 it was officially opened. A special Act of Parliament was introduced in 2011 to allow for the monument, and I assume to officially co-finance it. The federal government donated the land, managed by the NCC and committed $ 4 million, another $4.5 million was raised in the community. You’ll recognise a number of names on the plaques inside the monument.

Mostly concrete for Holocaust monument

The mostly concrete construction is situated across from the war museum on a busy intersection with Booth street and the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway. The design team, led by Gail Dextor-Lord included Daniel Libeskind, Edward Burtynsky (photography), Doris Bergen (subject matter advisor)  and Claude Cormier (landscape architecture, known for the pink trees in the Montreal Palais de Congress, Breczy Park and Sugar Beach in Toronto) had to work within the constraints of traffic on two sides which is likely why they used those high angled concrete walls. 

Cormier’s landscape makes the monument a bit softer with the low shrubs and the soft corners of the landscaped lines. Cormier was initially hesitant to work on the monument though, he told me. His designs are usually much more whimsical and a Holocaust monument doesn’t really allow his style, he felt. But after a few phone calls from Libeskind, he decided to join the team.

 The space should be able to host about 1000 people for ceremonies.

Holocaust Star of David symbol reflected in the monument
Holocaust Star of David symbol reflected in the monument (Artist impression from NCC)
It is not that obvious, other than from the air, that the monument is shaped after the 6 pointed Star of David, which the Nazis mandated the Jews to wear on their clothes.

Desolate

Pedestrian traffic is low in the somewhat open, windy, desolate area, which is probably fitting for the monument. It is not a place where you go for an afternoon walk. 

When I walked up to my bike to go home, someone was just attempting to steal it; he had cut my lock already. I clearly surprised him with my sudden appearance and when I expressed my discontent to him in a way that didn’t leave much to the imagination, he ran way.

Solemn

I am leaving you with a collection of photos. I am not an architecture critic so judge for yourself. Solemn is probably a proper description though. There is a 2 minute video of a walk through through the monument from west to east at the bottom of this post.

The sight line on the east side in the picture above shows the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill. It looks like some trees had to be cut down. If you turn 180 degrees, you can see the Minto tower in Westboro. Photo below:

Above: The war museum in the background

Pads for future benches I assume.

So there is one other person in the monument and he is standing right in front of me to take a photo 🙂

If you want to do a 2 minute walk through through the monument, take a quick look at the video below:

More on the monument at the NCC Website

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