Monday, May 23, 2005

Not in this land alone

In honour of Victoria Day, I'd like to call attention to one of my favourite long-gone Ottawa landmarks, the Victoria Tower. The centrepiece of Parliament Hill's original Centre Block (before it burned down in 1916), I think it shows a far more reasonable sense of scale. The Peace Tower could be built to the height it was only by aid of a 20th-century steel girder superstructure; the Victoria Tower, conversely, was supported only by the same stone Gothic arch vaults as the rest of the building. The result is something that seems less showy, and more in tune with the other parts of the Hill from the same era, especially the ornate High Victorian Gothic Revival wrought-iron and inlaid mosaic work of the East Block. The Peace Tower is a modern, in places edging towards Modernist, re-interpretation of the Gothic Revival style, and I think it only serves to highlight the later rebuilding of the Centre Block, rather than blending in. Maybe, though, I just appreciate the whimsical, non-linear shape of the tower itself, so less aggressive than the perfect angles of the Peace Tower. In any event, here's to Victoria Regina et Imperatrix today, hey?

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