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flar

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d o w n t o w n - o t t a w a
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nrb

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Thanks flar. For all the shit Ottawa gets about it's architectural banality it does have its own particular flavour. The height restrictions combined with the massive amount of office space needed for the government makes the downtown office area surprisingly filled in and spread out. I don't know of any other city that has those monstrous square buildings made solely to pack in as much space as possible for the smallest amount of money while still staying under the low height restriction. If nothing else it's imposing.

I also appreciate the shot of the esplanade laurier (picture 21). I always laugh when I hear people complaining about the shoddiness of first canadian place's marble. That's nothing compared to the deteriorated condition of the esplanade. And it's where the offices of the finance department and treasury board are located!
 
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flar

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Ottawa has quite a few interesting buildings. The problem is there are way too many 14 storey tinted glass boxes. I hate those, and that's probably what defines downtown Ottawa to those who visit (the Parliamentary district notwithstanding). Many Ottawa buildings would actually be nice if they were sliced vertically and the halves stacked on top of each other, Place Bell being a fine example of that.
 

Long Island Mike

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Flar: Great group of Ottawa central city pics here!
I will get to questions/observations I have here at a later date.
I remember Ottawa as a very interesting capital city...
LI MIKE
 

allabootmatt

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Thanks for these great shots of Canada's biggest missed opportunity. Ottawa is sort of a tragedy to me--such potential, and almost all of it wasted. It has great buildings from several eras, genuinely stunning natural features, and a big concentration of brains and (thanks to the Feds) money. ByWard market is one of Canada's most successful urban neighborhoods, for sure. And I love the mix of Ontario and Quebec building styles. Yet the city just can't seem to get out of its own way. Outside of the immediate federal core (ie, Parliament Hill and Sussex Dr.) the public spaces are generally in even worse shape than Toronto's. Years of suburban-focused planning have starved the downtown and created a bizarre transit system. The removal of the railway station was also a big blow, even if we got more canal access out of it. And some of its main drags--Elgin and Bank come to mind--are true embarassments for the capital of a G7 country. Ottawa could easily be Canada's best small city. Alas...
 

urbanboom

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I almost feel that Ottawa could've some sort of l'Enfant-esque plan a la Washington DC. There's very little grandeur in that city, but it seems to me that I could be great. As matt pointed out, there are some stunning natural features that could render the city incredible. Hopefully it can make step in the right direction and that one day, an ambitious Federal government can remake the city (albeit under better economic conditions). I guess, I'm dreaming of some sort of great Mall or Boulevard like Les Champs Elysees, London's or Washington's Mall or hell, even University Avenue. Ottawa was designed to me subtle, functional, tasteful and working... but not for grandeur.

How Canadian. But I say that in the most positive sense.

Great pics, by the way.
 

ganjavih

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I will disagree with the sentiment on this thread and say that at least the immediate downtown area, the Parliament block, the market, the river and the canal are very worthy of our national capital. Wellington St is very grand. The panoramic views from the Portage Bridge, and the view of Parliament Hill from Alexandra Bridge are beautiful. Outside of the small downtown core, I agree, the city somewhat begins to fall apart, apart from a few key neighbourhoods. The moving of the train station and arena to the burbs were tragic errors.
 

Hipster Duck

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Thanks for the photos, flar.

Here is an example of why Ottawa/Canada has a long way to go in the architectural grandeur department compared to the United States:

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Now, here we have what could have been a wonderful early 20th Century building. Unfortunately, the pediment has been redecorated to become a po-mo parody of itself and the cornice - which was probably once rather ornate - has been shorn off and replaced with some aluminum siding. If this building were in some two-bit American city like Tulsa or Harrisburg, you could be pretty confident that both the base and the crown of this building would be intact.
 

jswag

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I don't think Ottawa needs some grand plan like L'Enfant's D.C. I like that Ottawa was a town before it was the capital, and some of that original character still remains. If I'm not mistaken, there was a grand plan to re-align Metcalfe so it would line up with the Peace Tower... obviously it would be destructive to do that just for a view.

I visit my family in Ottawa about twice a year. We often go to the touristy areas and in my mind, the capital is grand. The Parliament buildings always strike me, the view from the Hill is incredible, and there are some truly grandiose buildings around that area suitable for a capital. I don't think tourists venture much out of the Parliament district; so in terms of Ottawa being more "grand" than other cities because it's a capital-- I don't think it has to be, outside of the main touristy areas. (Not that it shouldn't aim to be better).

All that being said, Ottawa has made some enormous errors in judgment, which I think have already been mentioned. But since they were huge, I'll say them again: Moving the train station out to the burbs, and building the hockey arena in a farmer's field were regretful. Apart from Edmonton's Rexall Place (which is at least on an LRT line), Ottawa's is the only major hockey arena in a suburban area in the country.

Edit: Thanks for the photos, Flar. You captured the feel of the CBD well, including the disappointing desolation of Sparks St.
 

Skeezix

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I agree with many of the comments here. However, the one comment that always puzzles me is the one about the train station. I actually don't think it was great tragedy that it moved from its original location. While it would have been lovely to keep the train station downtown, I think the trade-offs generally made the move worthwhile. Certainly, bigger mistakes were made. Opening up access to the canal, and the creation of Colonel By Drive, were huge improvements that would have been difficult had the train tracks remained (the Nicholas Street extension to the Queensway was much less of a benefit, and a huge wasted opportunity). With no commuter rail, Ottawa's train station was destined to a sleepy VIA station, so it's not as if the old Union Station would have been a hub in the same way as Toronto's Union Station. Even with the new LRT, had the train station remained it would likely only be one station on the route (and not nearly the busiest) - i.e. Ottawa's version of Wellesley Station.

The replacement train station is a great building in its own right. And being right on the Transitway, it is easily accessible by public transit from the downtown and other parts of the city.

The real tragedy is the criminal underutilization of the old Union Station building since the train station was moved from downtown. In my opinion, that was the much much bigger mistake. And there is no sign that will be corrected anytime soon. At least it has been relatively well maintained and wasn't left to rot.

Don't get me started about building Scotiabank Place in Kanata, though. That was crazy. But, of course, the catalyst for the NHL's return to Ottawa in the early 1990s was a desire by Terrace Investments to expand the urban boundary in Kanata, with a professional hockey team as leverage, rather than being purely about hockey.
 

SLD

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Lovely

I am from Ottawa and I absolutely love the photos! I've noticed that, recently, the city is trying to add more buildings to the downtown and neighbourhoods in Ottawa Centre. I live by the Civic Hospital in Hintonburg, and grew up along the strip from Wellington to Westboro. We're getting several new condominiums being built.

Ottawa definitely has a lot of potential to become a beautiful, vibrant capital city. But we need lots of money, good architects and planners to help us fix it. I would hate the ambiance of the city and my neighbourhoods to be disrupted... but it's for the good of the city.

For those unaware, check out the controversy over the convent in Westboro. It's over a hundred years old, and they are going to build condos on the land it's located! Residents are not happy because the city did not step in to save the heritage site.

Convent: Les Soeurs de la Visitation
 

pman

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The almost total absence of pedestrians in every shot makes Ottawa look kind of creepy. Was it a particularly cold winter day? Were the photos taken early Sunday morning? Is the city really that dead?
 

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