Aylmer’s real front door
After waiting through at least two city administrations and a great deal of discussion, Gatineau is prepared to take the big step, announcing its plans for a re-design and re-build of parc des Cèdres and its pavilion/restaurant. With the plans released to the community clubs, February 28, and later published in the Bulletin, Aylmerites have their first view of the project and, suffice it to say, we’re under-whelmed.
Softball and sailing club members seem to have the most reservations – parking space and location, use of the boat lift, hydro wires, all this has been detailed in the Bulletin’s coverage. These are very practical issues about safety and good use of the facility. What must be front and centre is the opportunity to build something remarkable, as well as functional.
Consider, first, that the marina/park has been a focus of Aylmer’s identity from its settler history to its incorporation into the larger city of Gatineau. The sail has been Aylmer’s symbol. This tells us the importance of this site, and it is disappointing that this history has played such a minor role in the site’s re-design.
Here was the launch-site of early Canada’s traffic up the Ottawa River. Steamboats, ferries, cargo boats, raftsmen all used this landing. The Symmes Inn celebrates and details this history, and the park and its pavilion are part of the complex formed by the Symmes Inn. The re-design of the pavilion could very easily continue playing that part, if the designers had given that goal some consideration.
The park and pavilion are, in effect, the beginning of Aylmer’s rue Principale, which the city has very generously renovated and re-vamped. Why stop half-a-block from the water? Why not include the pavilion as rue Principale’s start?
The pavilion has been completely redesigned, but, frankly, take a look at that design. It looks like a school facade, circa 1970. Or a municipal garage or even water-works. We know the city’s architects are much more imaginative, so why use a design off the shelf which meets no criteria other than the most basic? Why not a challenge to architects to create rue Principale’s (and Aylmer’s) real front door? Why not a challenge to design a flagship, not just one more municipal building which could fit in downtown Hull or along Maloney Blvd in Gatineau sector? Why not showcase our city’s creativity and architectural imagination?
This is a first step, cautious and uninspired, but a step nevertheless. Now let’s hear from the citizens and user-groups, let’s see a real re-design incorporating the needs of the sailing club (not Quebec’s fourth-largest, its largest!), pleasure-boaters and the public – parking, public transit – and accommodating Aylmer’s significant history. Aylmer was once considered a possible site for the nation’s capital!
We’re convinced the city, with its resources and expertise, can do much better, and we should take the opportunity coming to encourage our administrators to rise to this challenge – and opportunity – to build something reflecting the importance and historical significance of this beautiful spot.