The summer edition of Spacing is covering a topic dear to my heart. Why do people love to hate “Modern”? I think we often have blindspots when it comes to the value of different eras and the impression they leave on our built environment. There is often a clash between contemporary values and architectural styles of the past. It led to the loss of many heritage buildings in the past. Victorian homes couldn’t meet the demands of modern living and were demolished before the heritage movement sought to protect them for future generations. It’s hard to find anyone who’ll say Victorian homes aren’t worth preserving. It breaks my heart that preserving/restoring modern architecture is such a hard sell.
The post-war era is historically noteworthy and the architecture of the period is a beautiful embodiment of the optimism in technology and the future, the desire to start fresh and break from a past that was so connected to war and destruction.
As I pointed out in my UrbSanity article in June, we criticize the past for razing Lebreton Flats and other late-19th/early-20th century buildings. To us, it’s a loss of buildings that would now be 100 years old. To them, it was buildings a little over 50. Now we too seem to look at buildings in that 50 year age range with little respect, ready to tear it down with little thought.
Not all buildings are worth protecting but some are gems that just need to be reset and polished.
Below are two of my favourite Ottawa buildings. One is barely known by most people I talk to. The other is barely noticed. I love these buildings but seeing the old photographs makes me wonder if part of the problem is most people can’t see past the neglect and clumsy retrofits.
So please click on the photos below and take a look at the URBsite posts for each. Look at the photos and try to see the beauty and elegance. Even if you don’t fall in love with them, I hope you might at least stop hating them and see the value in keeping some of them around.
Does anyone care to share their favourite Ottawa modernist building?