You may recall that several months back I paid a visit to Library and Archives Canada on Wellington Street in Ottawa.
I learned at the time that no exhibits had been held in the building for close to two years. I found the place sterile and unwelcoming; and saw with my own eyes the contempt this government holds for the institution responsible for presenting Canadian history to its citizens.
This building represents the public face of LAC. It’s where we go when we want to research things. Putatively, it’s the place where rare and precious treasures are displayed and celebrated.
Now, contrast the dilapidated Wellington street commissariat above, with this
looking (note how parking space at this non-public building is at least ten times what it is at Wellington)
Yes. This is the LAC’s Preservation Centre in Gatineau, Quebec. A twenty to thirty minute drive from Wellington Street. I visited it this afternoon. Only one catch. The security guard told me that I wasn’t allowed in. This beautiful state-of-the-art building is not open to the public.
Why spend what must have been tens of millions of extra dollars constructing such a striking looking facility, when it isn’t even open to the public? Incidentally, nearby there’s another new building.
It’s filled with LAC personnel.
Instead of erecting all of this gleaming real estate in the middle of nowhere…why wasn’t the decision taken to build one all-purpose, public-friendly, conveniently located museum near the existing one, on LeBreton Flats?
What I do know is that the Auditor General at the time had something to say.
“In 1994 we noted that funds were being spent on site and design considerations that exceeded the functional needs of the building. In granting preliminary project approval, Treasury Board ministers expressed the view that design and consequent costs of the Gatineau facility should place emphasis on functional requirements. We concluded that the siting of the facility and concerns with public visibility resulted in a design that emphasized factors other than the functional requirements. For example, the intent of the client’s general design, as conveyed to the architect, emphasized that “the Gatineau Building will present the image of a leading archival centre, a National heritage and cultural element”, despite the absence of plans for any significant access to the facility by the public and a mandate to stress functionality.”
One can see from this example that incompetence and lack of foresight are not talents possessed solely by today’s so-called leaders.