War and peace

May 26, 2010

Founded in 1880, the Canadian War Museum was initially a depository for militia artefacts. In 1967, the Museum moved to an old Archives building on Sussex Drive, but due to space limitations, it stored most of its collection in what used to be a tramway garage. When, in 2001, the federal government approved the construction of a large and modern building at LeBreton Flats, a great adventure began! The Museum opened in 2005 and is now celebrating its 5-year anniversary. Discover a world of wonders…

“Lest We Forget”

We all wish for peace and for a world where wars are a thing of the distant past. In reality, human nature often stands in the way of such hopes. War after war, our world is built, destroyed, and built again. Violence, pain and sacrifice reign at the heart of these conflicts. The new Museum was built on these two themes that give us hope throughout the aftermath: remembrance and regeneration.

In the vast surrounding landscape, the Museum’s large peak emerges, in which small square windows spell out the message “Lest We Forget” in Morse code. Before they even walk through the front door, visitors are invited to reflect upon the conflicts that shaped the history of Canada and of the world and to give thought to the men, women and children who lived through conflicts, at home and abroad.

Remembrance permeates the Memorial Hall, an oasis of peace and reflection. Seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, this small room made of concrete and slate houses a reflecting pool. On November 11th at 11 a.m., a ray of sunlight penetrates Memorial Hall’s only window, illuminating the room’s sole artefact, the headstone of the Unknown Soldier. Lest We Forget.

From the rubble stems new life

Remembrance is key at the Canadian War Museum, but regeneration inspired its architecture. When designing this impressive building, Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama looked for a road leading to peace through the memories of war.

Moriyama wanted the Museum’s structure to blend into its natural surroundings. He therefore designed one of Canada’s largest green roofs, where poppies grow in abundance. Through the library’s large windows, the surroundings resemble the pitted hills of battlefields and remind us that nature always triumphs over destruction. This gifted architect also evoked the cycle of life by choosing to recycle the weathered copper previously used on the roof of the Library of Parliament to cover the central axis of the Museum, the structure’s very backbone, which runs across the building from the Foyer, through the Memorial Hall and LeBreton Gallery, to the Regeneration Hall.

Regeneration Hall’s impressive peak, with a vertical span of 24 metres, is home to the original models of the statues at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. In this majestic space, you can hear the wind’s melancholy whistle through the structure’s steel, which was recorded during the construction of the Museum. Its effect is soothing but sorrowful. In the Mezzanine, you will wander past the statue named Hope and toward to the focal point… the Peace Tower.

Down to the last intricate detail of its architecture, the Canadian War Museum is a symbol of hope juxtaposed against the cruel face of war. Let us remember and let us regenerate.