- How could we best support our community’s urban fabric renewal?
- Would it be possible to use our new space to tell the story of urban transformation?
The first question was answered when we found space in an emerging downtown neighborhood called Westboro. The second was a little more challenging when we decided to redefine our workspace and celebrate the history of our urban environment through a wood ceiling installation that tells the story of urban transformation in the Capital Region of Canada.
The Westboro neighborhood played a significant role in the region’s lumber boom of the 1870s. We set out to tell the story of this region’s modern transformation by creating a custom 600-square-foot wood ceiling installation. It takes the form of an abstract map of the region that traces the waterways, roads, trails and significant buildings, which are overlaid on panels that are then divided into the territorial concessions created when the land was settled.
The ceiling installation is made of more than 170 specialty milled pieces by a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router. Through this creation, we merged our creative interests with a team of regional craftsmen and the latest technology, allowing us to actively participate in the design and construction of our space.
History as Inspiration
Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is located adjacent to the Chaudière Falls at the confluence of the Gatineau, Rideau and Ottawa rivers. These waterways allowed trade and exploration from Upper and Lower Canada to expand westward into what would soon become Canada’s vast interior.
Transportation held a transformative role in the region for more than two centuries. Étienne Brûlé was the first European explorer to travel up the Ottawa River by canoe in 1610, followed by Samuel de Champlain in 1613. Each were assisted by Algonquin guides in control of the Ottawa Valley at the time.
As pioneers arrived in the region via the waterways and basic roads, they were conceded land for farming that was organized in rows of surveyed lots bound by new concession roads. Land title was awarded to applicants in exchange for the clearance of land, roadwork to expand the network and the raising of homes. Concession roads were laid out orthogonally such that the sidelines ran roughly parallel to the north shore of Lake Ontario or to the southern boundary of the nearest county.
As settlement expanded and industry grew in the region, waterways became part of a larger transportation network that would include the convergence of rail and roadways connecting to the world beyond in the mid19th century. Some sections of the railways followed earlier tracings of roadways and trails in the region; others influenced the creation of roadways that have remained long after the rails have been removed.
Following years of growth and periods of decline, the railways were consolidated and, in 1950, the Gréber Plan was created by Jacques Gréber for the Federal District Commission of Ottawa. The urban plan called for the complete reorganization of Ottawa’s road and rail network, including the construction of a new boulevard crossing from east to west replacing the Canadian National Railway. The thoroughfare was ultimately created as a highway and called the Queensway as a result of provincial funding requirements.
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