Monday, December 11, 2017

Ottawa Vantages

As you may have noticed, I have switched out header images for something of more of a winter theme. The new one is from this past February during Winterlude, when we had ice dragon boat racing on Dow's Lake.

I have some odds and ends today. My first shot is the most recently taken of these photographs. The Supreme Court is an Art Deco wonder on the west side of Parliament Hill, a relative rarity in a city with plenty of Gothic architecture. I took the photograph on a snowy morning in November. The shot that follows was from an evening some weeks before, capturing the building by night.

This is the Bank of Canada Building from the Wellington Street side. You can see the Confederation Block of Parliament Hill reflected in the windows of the more modern portion of the building. The older building, partially submerged into the glass structure, dates back to the early 1930s. The sculpture on its terrace is a bronze from 1966 simply titled Flight, by an artist named Sorel Etrog. The building has a particularly unusual door which seems to evoke ancient Greece. 

Victoria Island in the Ottawa River features this old carbide mill, dating back to the 19th century. The bare bones of the old mill still look solid, but this being the age of lawyers, it's all fenced off to keep trespassers out. A lot was done here, as you can see from the accompanying panel.

A short walk away at the Ottawa entrance to the Portage Bridge is something new, an art installation just placed here earlier in the fall overlooking Richmond Landing. The Gather-Ring is the work of designer Manuel Baez and artist Charlynne Lafontaine. It incorporates the dream catcher and the cedar tree of the base into a single circle. In Algonquin, this is titled Tediba Mamandosewin.

I finish with something else installed this year. Outside the Chateau Laurier is a bust of Yousuf Karsh, the esteemed Canadian portrait photographer who called Ottawa home and worked out of his studio in the Chateau for the second half of his professional career.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Stark And Solemn

Here we have a view looking out at the Holocaust Monument from where I left off yesterday. Have a look at the website for a bird's eye view of it.

This is a closer view of Burtynsky's photograph etched onto the wall. Track 17, Berlin, Germany captures a spot in the heart of the German capital that was a focal point for Holocaust operations. Trains leaving this freight yard would carry Jews to ghettos and death camps starting in 1941.

This is the most haunting of Burtynsky's photographs, even decades after the Holocaust. Fence, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland depicts the barbed wire electric fence of the death camp where well over a million people, many of them Jews, were systematically murdered during the Holocaust.

I have three close ups here with period photographs on the panels I showed yesterday. Other photographs I chose to not do in close ups, given the material.

There is a staircase (and an elevator for those who require it) leading to an overlook. Part of the design of the Monument includes a sharp point directed east towards Parliament Hill, where the Peace Tower can be glimpsed at a distance on the left. The Firefighters Memorial is directly across the street,  and a careful eye can pick out the large statue there.

Turning around from here shows more of the architecture.

Burtynsky's last two works are side by side. Hiding Place, Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, Poland depicts a trench beneath the tombstones that served as a refuge for Jewish families during raids.

Prayer Room, Theresienstadt, Czech Republic shows a place of prayer that was created despite the misery and torment of the camp ghetto.

Here we have one final view. I have found this place to be haunting, filled with sadness, but also something that should have been built here in Canada long ago. It is fitting that it has been completed. May we never forget.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The New Monument

The National Holocaust Monument was long overdue in coming about, and was officially opened in September here in Ottawa. Situated in the Lebreton Flats area west of the downtown core, it sits between the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Firefighters Memorial. I photographed it from an angle taking in all three structures on the day after Remembrance Day.

The Monument is designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, with concrete angles and a shape, from overhead, like a stylized Star of David. Libeskind also did the re-design on the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, with its harsh crystal additions coming out of the original building, a re-design that I dislike, for the record, but here the angles work well. Libeskind is the son of Holocaust survivors, and designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin. In collaboration with historian Doris Bergen, landscape architect Claude Cormier, and photographer Edward Burtynsky, Libeskind's final design is striking. Within, panels on the history of the Holocaust are to be found, as well as present day monochromatic photographs by Burtynsky, whose haunting prints are reproduced onto the walls. I first visited the Monument in the evenings on several occasions while going over to see the Miwate exhibition nearby. It was appropriate, I think, to visit this place for the first time at night. I did not get in during the daytime until Remembrance Day. With enough to photograph for one day, I decided to come back the following day to photograph the Monument.

This is the first of the photographs, etched into the concrete. Site Of Death March, Near Mauthausen, Austria depicts a place where, late in the war, the Nazis emptied camps in an attempt to conceal their crimes, force-marching prisoners back towards areas still in German control. In April 1945, 20 000 sick and weak Jewish prisoners were marched along this country road, and those unable to keep up were shot and left in the ditches. Today, as you can see in Burtynsky's photograph, it is a peaceful location with no obvious hint of its dark past.

Abandoned Railbed, Treblinka, Poland looms in a ghostly way on one wall. Burtynsky captures the remaining railbed through the woods as it appears in the current day, with nature gradually moving in. During the war, nearly a million people, most of them Jewish, passed through here to the death camp.

Here are the panels detailing the story of the Holocaust and its legacy. It is both an example of the resilience of humanity, and proof of just how evil that evil can be. And there are people in this world who still deny it happened.

There is a space here off the main court, a triangular room with a lit flame on the wall. It is a space for reflection.

An example of the angles here. One of Burtynsky's photographs is etched on that wall, and we'll get another look at it tomorrow.

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Prime Ministerial Home

Picking up where I left off yesterday in Laurier House, here in the Laurier Library, a player piano sits. Parks Canada guides are to be found on each floor, and one started up the piano to play some ragtime- note the depressed keys as the piano plays itself. The boxes you see on top are marked from a company that still makes these scrolls for player pianos.

Across the hall from this room is the master bedroom. The Lauriers slept here, and King did as well when the place became his home.

The top floor takes in this room, a favourite for me in the house. Laurier used this room as a billiards room, and it's easily big enough to fit a table for that, with room to spare around it. King used it for his study, and it has been left that way. He essentially ran the country from this room. Many of his books are in the bookshelves, safely behind glass.

Across the central hall is a room that was used by the head housekeeper in the days of the Lauriers. King turned it into a breakfast room for himself, and had most of his meals here when he wasn't entertaining visitors.

Among the items belonging to King in this room are plaster casts of the hands and face of Abraham Lincoln, done in 1860 at the time of the Republican nomination by artist Leonard Volk. These are one of three or four sets in the world, and how they came into the hands of the Canadian Liberals at the time are a mystery, but they're in a good place- artifacts of one great leader in the home of two other great leaders.

This sculpture has always drawn my eye. How a sculptor could get that veil effect with marble is a mystery.

Here we return to where we started, with the spacious front veranda. If you are ever in Ottawa, I recommend paying a visit to this place.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Return To Laurier House

I returned to Laurier House one afternoon in October before the place closed up for the winter. A National Historic Site, this was home to two Liberal prime ministers in turn- Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King. First built in 1878 with modifications and additions afterwards, it incorporates elements of Italianate and Second Empire architecture. Wilfred and his wife Zoe made it their Ottawa home in 1897; upon his death, she remained here until her death two years later in 1921. She willed it to King, who had become the leader of the Liberal party, and he lived there while in the city, leaving it and his estate in the Gatineau Hills to the people of Canada in his will.

The visitor sees several rooms on three levels, with items belonging to the Lauriers and King to be found throughout. The drawing room was used to entertain guests. The ladder you see here is part of maintenance- the chandeliers through the house get thorough cleanings on a regular schedule, and I just happened to be visiting while that was happening.

Photographs in the room include President Truman on the cabinet, and Queen Elizabeth and King George VI on the table.

This is the formal dining room. 

A section was open here on the first floor that hasn't been opened in the past, leading back to the kitchen, which looks like it would have been in King's time. During the tenure of both Prime Ministers, the house had a staff- cooks and housemaids, who had rooms of their own, often in the north side of the structure. This radio in the hallway caught my eye.

These rationing posters caught my eye. The kitchen had a number of items out on display- wax copies of food, for instance.

Up a flight of stairs we come to one of the guest rooms, filled with furnishings and art. A formal portrait of Laurier is at the left.

This sculpture stands in what is today called the Laurier Library. Laurier used the space for his office, and some of his books are present, while King used it as a guest room. I have more from here tomorrow.