Former Sussex Drive war museum reopens as Global Centre for Pluralism

As a former public servant who was involved in the final stage of the lease negotiations for the former war museum, nice to see the new home of the GCP open. Had a recent opportunity to attend an event here and, not surprisingly the Aga Khan’s reno is done with taste and style:

The place where Canadians once came to commemorate this country’s contributions to war has been boldly reimagined for the 21st century as a centre that fosters pluralism and celebrates diversity as a new international value.

Built between 1904 and 1906, 330 Sussex Dr. was designed by David Ewart, the chief dominion architect. His other notable buildings include the Royal Canadian Mint and the Canadian Museum of Nature. It served as the dominion archives for 60 years before becoming the Canadian War Museum in 1967.

The three-storey Tudor Gothic stone building has been vacant since 2005, when the war museum relocated to its new space on LeBreton Flats.

Now, a decade after a $35-million restoration led by KPMB Architects — and paid for by the Aga Khan —began, the Global Centre for Pluralism’s international headquarters officially opens on Tuesday.

When the Citizen was given a sneak peek inside late last week, workers were busy with the finishing touches.

Project manager Farhad Mawani explained how Ewart wanted Ottawa to have buildings that befitted a capital city and, for their time, had modern touches, such as open concepts, plain white walls and exposed beams. Some of the materials used, then and now, include white oak and marble.

Considered a classified federal heritage building, the renovations to 330 Sussex — which sits between the National Gallery of Canada and the Mint on a perch overlooking the Ottawa River — had to be minimal and sensitive. “We didn’t just want to start ripping everything out,” Mawani said.

The international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism (formerly the War Museum) at 330 Sussex Drive have undergone a major rehabilitation led by the award-winning architects KPMB and supported by a $35 million investment from the Aga Khan. May 12,2017.  ERROL MCGIHON / POSTMEDIA
The international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism (formerly the War Museum) at 330 Sussex Drive have undergone a major rehabilitation led by the award-winning architects KPMB and supported by a $35 million investment from the Aga Khan. May 12,2017.  ERROL MCGIHON / POSTMEDIA

Design work was completed in 2013, lead and asbestos were removed the next year, and construction began in earnest the year after that. The Centre’s 14 staff have been working out of it since January.

An addition, built in the 1920s, will be occupied by the Mint. A third wing never materialized, so the building has retained its asymmetrical, L-shape.

Two things now set the building apart from earlier versions of itself.

A new courtyard off Sussex featuring benches and blooming flower beds is intended to draw people in and create a new public space.

“Already, even though it’s been a bumpy start to spring, there are lots of people coming and sitting and chatting, and that’s the idea,” secretary general John McNee said in an interview.

The forecourt, as he called it, is unquestionably lovely, but the building itself feels austere, colonial and stuffy. It doesn’t scream pluralism or diversity.

But McNee said its august location on the ceremonial route between Rideau Hall and Parliament Hill sends a signal that these are important values in Canada. The idea for this centre dates back to the 1990s when the Aga Khan began asking Canadian leaders to explain the success of Canada’s approach to diversity.

Plus, when the building was the war museum, a giant tank greeted visitors. “That’s not terribly welcoming,” McNee said.

The other unique feature, on the building’s back side facing the river, is an angular window that juts out, bathing all three storeys in natural light. Viewed from inside, it acts as a magnet, pulling people to it, compelling them to stare out over the river below.

It symbolizes opening a door to the river and simultaneously acts as a nod to the organization’s raison d’être to position Canada as a country that’s open to the world.

KPMB took the trefoil design that’s repeated on the building’s parapet and reinterpreted it to create a pattern that is used as a screen on part of the window and also for acoustic panelling in one of the centre’s key spaces.

Elsewhere, walls are adorned with Canadian art. The idea was to choose artists or pieces that tell a story of pluralism in Canada. Former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, who sits on the centre’s board, was on the committee that selected the art.

The Global Centre for Pluralism is one of 150 buildings participating in this year’s instalment of Doors Open Ottawa. Curious members of the public can visit on June 3 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Global Centre for Pluralism is also part of the National Capital Commission’s Confederation Pavilions program. It will be open from June 7 until the end of October for self-guided tours on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons.

Source: Former Sussex Drive war museum reopens as Global Centre for Pluralism | Ottawa Citizen

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Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism moves in to heritage digs after decade of delays

I remember being involved in the closing of the lease negotiations. Nice to see this being realized:

A think-tank founded by the Aga Khan with $30 million from taxpayers has finally moved into a prime heritage building in Ottawa 10 years after the federal government gave it a 99-year lease.

The Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) pays the federal government $1 a year to use the building at 330 Sussex Dr., formerly the Canadian War Museum. The agreement also allows the GCP to lease out office space in the building at commercial rates.

And it already has a tenant: the Royal Canadian Mint, a Crown corporation.

The centre’s opening comes after a decade of false starts and missed deadlines.

It also highlights the close relationship successive Canadian governments have sought to foster with the Aga Khan, the hereditary leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims and a well-known philanthropist.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been forced to defend his recent visitto the Ismaili spiritual leader’s private island in the Bahamas. Trudeau, who through his father has a long personal relationship with the Aga Khan, has said the visit and a similar one in 2014 were personal.

But the Aga Khan and his charitable organizations have a long-standing relationship with the government of Canada, which sees their development work as aligned with Canada’s objectives and has contributed money to their projects for decades.

The Global Centre for Pluralism got its start in 2006, when the government of Stephen Harper gave $30 million to establish an operating fund for the think-tank, which is supposed to spread Canadian values of pluralistic democracy around the world.

Source: Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism moves in to heritage digs after decade of delays – Politics – CBC News

Global Centre for Pluralism 2016 Corporate Plan

GCP Drivers of PluralismThe 2016 Corporate Plan is out and worth a quick read. The most interesting aspect is their effort to develop pluralism indicators as per the framework above.

Will be interesting to see how this adds to other indicator efforts, more focussed on OECD countries (e.g., MIPEX, OECD), and the ability to obtain good comparative and consistent data.

Some of the elements in the GCP framework will pose particular challenges in this regard (e.g., education, religion and media, history and memory).

Download the 2016 Corporate Plan >