No. 272 . 25 January 2006 
ArchitectureWeek
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Canadian War Museum

by Brant Scott

Designers of the new Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario could have merely created a protective envelope for Canada's wartime artifacts. Instead they designed a monumental structure to inspire a nation by integrating artistic symbolism with pragmatic innovation.

The firms of Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Griffiths Rankin Cook, in joint venture and equal partnership, wanted to impart to visitors a hint of the brutality that Canadian forces have suffered in battle. The result is a concrete structure in which angled walls with rough-finished surfaces lean in and press on passers-by, suggesting the oppressive atmosphere of the battlefield.

Through a high, strategically placed window, the rays of the sun reach deep into the Canadian War Museum (CWM) to illuminate the mounted headstone of the Unknown Soldier precisely on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (Remembrance Day). Another way the form of the building expresses the message of the museum: small windows spaced high along the protruding copper fin spell "Lest we forget" and the French translation, "N'oublions jamais," in Morse code.

Built in just 29 months and officially opened on May 8, 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and the end of World War II in Europe, architects took pains to ensure visitors would walk away with a visceral and emotional experience. The building expresses the tumult of war and the regeneration that begins after peace is restored.   >>>

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