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Still from "Building Momentum with Design Excellence".

Capital Urbanism Lab: NCC’s monthly lectures bring placemakers together

By Hannah Manning on January 30, 2017



Ottawa and Gatineau are two separate cities brought together in a unique way – as Canada’s Capital Region. The National Capital Commission, or the NCC, is the body responsible for planning, as well as taking part in the development, conservation and improvement of Canada’s Capital Region. Their goal is to ensure that Canada’s Capital Region is a source of national pride and significance.

One of their many initiatives is the Capital Urbanism Lab an innovative space where Canadians and leaders in urbanism, design, heritage and conservation, sustainability, and placemaking get together to inspire the future of Canada’s Capital Region. As part of this lab, they host a monthly lecture series.

These monthly lectures bring together leaders, experts and the public to share knowledge and ideas about how to build a great capital. Topics over the past three years have included smart cities, local food from urban spaces, green spaces, urbanism online, and archaeology in the capital, to name just a few.

I attended January’s lecture which was hosted in conjunction with Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism. The lecture hall at the Canadian Museum of History was at full capacity. The theme was Building Momentum With Design Excellence, a timely topic given the recent discussions around plans for Ottawa’s central library.

The Member of Parliament for Halifax, Andy Fillmore, set the tone for the evening by discussing Halifax’s Central Library and the effort that went into revitalizing their downtown core. Morten Schmidt, partner and co-founder of Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, then took the stage to talk about his firm’s work on the Halifax Central Library and the importance of democratic architecture, an idea he explained as putting people first.

Libraries are social places and both Schmidt and Fillmore used the evening as a chance to showcase how excellence in design can lend itself to building and supporting a sense of community in these spaces. Schmidt showed examples of buildings in Halifax, Canada; Aarhus, Denmark; Christchurch, New Zealand; Nuuk, Greenland; and Copenhagen, Denmark which promote this idea.

While centered on architecture and design, this lecture was also interesting for the questions it raised in regards to our own city and the future of the Ottawa central library. In a Q&A session at the end, a few audience members took the opportunity to discuss the importance of location, public consultation, and design of the new library.

The next Capital Urbanism Lab will be in February on Heritage: A Driver of Sustainability. If you find yourself interested but are not able to attend in person, the lectures are also streamed online. Check their site for more details, such as date and location, and to see other upcoming events.