Urban Prairie | Gatineau Canada | Claude Cormier + Associés with Aedifica

Canadian Museum of Civilization Plaza
Fall view from the Museum | ©Claude Cormier + Associés inc.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization, designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal and inaugurated in 1989, is comprised of two pavilions, their architecture a startling embodiment of the country’s distinguishing geographical features. The public display wing replicates the dramatic effect of the glaciers; the contours of the curatorial wing symbolize the majestic Canadian Shield; and the open Plaza simulates the vast Great Plains. The layout and sheer size of the Plaza were planned in such a way as to visually incorporate the Museum buildings and the Parliament Buildings perched across the Ottawa River. However, the Plaza’s lack of appeal had left it empty of visitors for much of the year. To remedy the situation, we extended the Museum’s original conceptual metaphor, bringing to life what had long remained latent: the swaying grasses of the Prairies.

Location Map ©Claude Cormier + Associés inc.
Canadian Museum of Civilization Plaza
1 Existing garden 2 Museum Building 3 Curatorial Wing 4 Plaza_Urban Prairie 5 Parliament Building view ©Claude Cormier + Associés inc.

The prairie topography has been recreated through hillocks interspersed across the Plaza and wound through by snaking pathways, suggestive both of the Museum’s curves and the soft and undulating prairie landscape. The granite paving stones hug and accentuate the gently rising mounds. The introduction of an urban prairie to the environment creates a microclimate, increases biodiversity, lessens heat island effect, and improves air quality—in short, lures the public through an appeal to the senses, without in any way hindering the stunning view that defines the site.

With an aim to enriching the visitor’s experience, our design of the spurred by the distinctive architecture of the Museum, evokes this sweeping expanse in the Canadian landscape.

From the plaza to the museum ©Michel Boulianne
Plantation colour in fall ©Claude Cormier + Associés inc.
View from inside the Museum ©Michel Boulianne
Fall ©Claude Cormier + Associés inc.

Urban Prairie / Transformation of the Plaza from Hardscape to Grassland

Design agency: Claude Cormier + Associés inc. in collaboration with Aedifica
Location : Gatineau, Québec, Canada
Client : Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation
Initiation of Project : 2005
Completion of project: June 2010
Project Area:: 2600m2

Design team:
Claude Cormier, Project director and Lead designer
Sophie Beaudoin, Landscape architect project manager
Marc Hallé, Landscape architect designer
Luu Thuy Nguyen, Landscape architect

General Contractors: Meyknecht-Lischer Contractors Ltd.
Éclairage Public, Lighting designer
John G. Cooke & Ass., Structural Engineer
Pageau Morel et Ass. Inc, Mecanical and electrical Engineer

Project Estimate: 2.1 milions $

About Damian Holmes 3292 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/