Canada’s first Centennial project receives the Prix du XXe sicle
The Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust in Charlottetown, PEI – which operates as Confederation Centre of the Arts – is the recipient of the 2015 Prix du XXe siècle for its enduring excellence and national significance to Canadian architecture.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and Heritage Canada The National Trust bestow the annual prize to promote public awareness of outstanding Canadian architecture and landmark buildings of the 20th century.
“The Confederation Centre of the Arts is an exceptional architectural tour de force of the mid-20th-century,” said the three-member jury. “Fifty years on, lovingly maintained …Confederation Centre remains both a key fixture of the daily life of Charlottetown, and an icon of the optimistic spirit of Canada’s centennial era.”
The design by architect Dimitri Dimakopoulos, of the Montreal firm Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise, was selected by a national competition that included submissions from a broad spectrum of Canada’s leading designers.
Built in 1964 as the first of Canada’s Centennial buildings, the Centre was founded to commemorate the anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Confederation Conference and the Fathers of Confederation.
The jury citation noted how the project served as a catalyst for the establishment of funding programs that would see more than 800 building projects undertaken as part of the Centennial celebrations of 1967: “The Centre’s novel combination of uses – theatre, library, gallery, memorial hall – expresses the cultural awakening that characterized the Centennial spirit of the mid-1960s. The mix of cultural spaces and the abstract architectural composition were deeply influential in many Centennial projects to follow across Canada.”
Added the jury, “Known for its innovations in stage design, the Centre enjoys layered spaces that effortlessly balance monumentality and intimacy evident in few other places in Canada. It subtly integrates the neighbouring historic Province House into one unified block perfectly scaled to Charlottetown’s urban core.”
The jury members were: Halifax architect Graeme Duffus, FRAIC; Steven Mannell, FRAIC, director of the College of Sustainability at Dalhousie University in Halifax; Andrew Waldron, Acting National Historic Sites Superintendent for Georgian Bay & Ontario East.
“This preeminent cultural campus of Prince Edward Island was built during a period of unprecedented Canadian nation-building through architecture,” says RAIC president Sam Oboh, FRAIC. “From its expressive skylights and concrete elements to its plaza and graceful steps, it expresses an elegance that defies time.”
Natalie Bull, executive director of Heritage Canada The National Trust, acted as Professional Advisor to the jury. Says Bull. “In the lead-up to celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it is appropriate that this year’s prize recognizes an outstanding mid-century heritage achievement conceived to celebrate that centennial. We are pleased to use the Prix du XXe siècle to bring national attention and understanding to the heritage of the modern movement in Canada.”
In a joint statement, Wayne Hambly, chairman of the Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust, and Jessie Inman, CEO, Confederation Centre of the Arts, say the honour acknowledges the exceptional vision of the architects: “This memorial complex, in both form and concept, continues to capture the spirit and imagination of our great nation.”
The Prix du XXe siècle celebrates design quality as well as enduring excellence. It recognizes buildings that continue in use as designed or that have successfully accommodated new uses without being altered in ways that detract from the original design intent. The award can recognize a building in Canada, designed by an architect from any country, or a building anywhere in the world that was designed by a Canadian architect.
The building was designated a National Historic Site in 2003. The architecture firm Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise later became ARCOP and is now Architecture | 49.
ALL ABOUT THE RAIC
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada is a voluntary national association, representing 5,000 members. The RAIC advocates for excellence in the built environment, works to demonstrate how design enhances the quality of life and promotes responsible architecture in addressing important issues of society.
For more information, visit www.raic.org