Another one bites the dust: Brutalist tower blown up in Ottawa

carling building implosion
CC BY 2.0 wikipedia

The Sir John Carling building in Ottawa was opened in 1967 to consolidate the Department of Agriculture, in the middle of an experimental farm established by Carling. It was designed by Hart Massey, son of the first Canadian born Governor General, and nephew of the actor Raymond Massey. It was blown up yesterday:

The Register of Canada's Historic Places describes it:

The Sir John Carling Building is very good example of the modernist architectural style of the middle part of the 20th century. In its construction and design aesthetic, it is a transitional design influenced by the refined steel and glass curtain wall buildings of the 1950s International Style and the more robust, concrete buildings of the mid 1960s. A very good example of the work of Hart Massey particularly in terms of its scale, the building is composed of three simple, discreet volumes separated from the ground plane by recessed bases. The Sir John Carling Building is constructed of very good quality craftsmanship and materials as found in the sophisticated detailing of the precast concrete panels and brise-soleil and the rich palette of interior finishes used on the main tower’s ground floor.

Agriculture Canada/Public Domain

The ministry abandoned it years ago and way back in 1998, it was determined to be "in poor condition." In 2008, Kelly Egan of the Ottawa Citizen complained:

I hear no outrage about the plan [to demolish], either, another sign we live in a truly reckless age. The message on this matter from Public Works, the landlord, is proof the government has banned the use of plain English. An e-mail from a department spokesman says the tower and the east annex are being “deconstructed.”

Sure. And the Titanic didn’t sink, it just “desurfaced.”

Yesterday the building was violently deconstructed by Advanced Explosives Demolition Inc. “If you can’t preserve it, you might as well blow it up,” says Lisa Kelly, the company president.

© From a great graphic in Ottawa Citizen

Clearly this building has been discussed for years. Way back in 2006, Heritage Canada discussed the " blinkered logic
that dooms buildings."

Andrew Powter, a recently retired heritage architect in Public Works, points to the Sir John Carling Building on Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm. An elegant 40-year-old office block designed by Hart Massey, its pre-cast concrete panels are deteriorating and its interior contains asbestos. Most of the landmark building is now threatened with demolition. “All discussions proceeded from the premise that the building was gone,” he said. “The demolition option was never questioned.”

Mr. Powter, an expert on embodied energy and the sustainability issues surrounding old buildings, says the Carling Building “could have been a flagship federal project for how to rehabilitate aging high-rise buildings” that dot Canada’s urban landscape.

There's no point repeating that the greenest building is the one already standing, no point in discussing how this might have been saved, repurposed, reused, No point in arguing that 47 years is way too young for a building to die, that's all been done. So lets just watch some great demolition videos.

Tags: Ban Demolition | Ontario | Preservation

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