Regeneration embodies the sequences of devastation, survival, rebirth, adaptation and life. In war, nature—comprising the land and the human spirit nurtured thereon—is ravaged and seemingly destroyed.
Miraculously and somehow inevitably, however, nature survives and regenerates as the power of life prevails. It is this process of regeneration and healing that nourishes and rekindles human hope, faith and courage.
Located in the Ottawa, Canada, the project's conception is a joint venture between Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects.
The design concept of Regeneration was inspired by stories of Canadian veterans, war poetry, and images found in photographs and paintings in the Canadian War Museum’s Beaverbrook Collection of War Art: Canadian soldiers standing in desolate foreign landscapes; and the Beaumont Hamel Memorial in France where trenches, now covered with lush green vegetation, preserve the memory of the 710 Newfoundlanders sacrificed at the 1916 Battle of the Somme.
The building emerges gently from the bank of the Ottawa River, rising slowly towards the east to engage the urban cityscape and pay homage to, in the distance, the Parliamentary Precinct.
The overall expression of the building is horizontal, with a rooftop of wild grasses.
One can imagine peeling back this protective cover to reveal the interior spaces: the memory of war captured in the complex system of tilting planes that collide and intersect with one another lending to a sense of disorientation from within. The landscape overlay is evidence
of the healing power of time and nature: land fusing with ruin in a slow process of regeneration and hybridization.
The concept of Regeneration demanded design and construction strategies that embraced sustainability and energy conservation. Recycled copper cladding from the Library of Parliament covers two walls in the foyer, and the north wall of Lebreton Gallery.
The green roof is an effective and economical solution to storm water management and provides significant energy saving and air pollution remediation. Concrete, incorporating recycled fly ash provides an energy-conserving mass. River water is used for mechanical cooling, non-potable uses and ground irrigation.
With a total GFA of 40,860 sq.m. (204,500 sq.ft), wall slopes from 3 to 31 degrees, and 32,000 m3 (1.1 million ft3) of concrete weighing 80,000 tonnes, the project engendered certain feats of engineering and building science. For example, in order to avoid the controlled appearance and relatively limited panel size inherent in a pre-cast panel system, a custom poured-in-place cladding system was developed. All exterior cladding panels were formed and poured in situ in a process known as “site-casting”.
The design of the New War Museum is worth of recognition because of the powerful connection the architecture has to an idea, a site and a country. Even empty of its contents, the building expresses the ambiguities of war and sacrifice, expresses the profound attachments we have to land and site, and expresses that intangible quality that is yet so integral to our identity as Canadians. It had the courage not to be a cliche of grand-standing architecture and to trust in the ‘genius loci’ of the site, expressing the spirit of place in the spirit of remembrance.