Ottawa, the city of, um...
Today, beyond the parliamentary precinct, the capital is an eyesore. It has been for some time. When Allan Gotlieb arrived in Ottawa from Oxford in the winter of 1957, he found the Parliament Buildings "spectacular" but was crestfallen at the rest of the city. "The town looked like an unkempt, decaying village," he wrote. "A dismal place; to call it provincial would have been a compliment." On his first anniversary in the capital, he scribbled a note to himself in which he said that if he ever began to like Ottawa, it would be time for him to leave; he was sure that it wouldn't be "because Ottawa had improved but because his standards had fallen." Fifty years later, things are worse. Ottawa has suffered the desecration of a generation. It has endured a kind of blitz, an assault on its aesthetic from jackhammers, wrecking balls, and cement mixers. What charms it once had have been lost in a canvas of concrete. What has emerged beyond Parliament Hill is a shapeless, featureless skyline. It is as if the successors of Langevin and Cormier and other architects who imagined Ottawa had a finely honed instinct for the ugly. This is true of what has been built by both the public and private sectors, though the federal government is largely responsible; to accommodate a growing bureaucracy, it has thrown up monstrosities designed by the cum laude graduates of the School of Brutalism. David Gordon, an urban planner and author of a forthcoming book on the city's development, calls them "the best collection of third-rate office towers in the country."
Andrew Cohen - A city that has given up
(book excerpt) - Ottawa Citizen
- May 9, 2007
In Ottawa's defense, almost every city everywhere forgot how to build livably after the 2nd world war. The only thing that saves the great cities of the world is that their downtowns are mostly pre-WWII, or even pre-car. Take a trip through the suburbs of Paris or visit any city's late-1960's era "improvements" and you will see spectacularly ugly cr*p regardless of nation.
Ottawa just has the misfortune that the federal government and developers started putting up new major downtown buildings just at the time that architects and city planners had become enamoured of brutal, inhuman, ugly, car-centric urban "design".