Presentation of the Governor General’s Medals in Architecture
Rideau Hall, Friday, February 1st, 2013
I am pleased to welcome you to Rideau Hall for this celebration of the very best in contemporary Canadian architecture.
As you have no doubt noticed, Rideau Hall itself is something of an architectural marvel—though it can hardly be called “contemporary.” The main part of the residence was built in 1838 by Thomas MacKay who, in addition to being a successful businessman and city founder, was an accomplished stonemason and architect.
Besides building Rideau Hall in the middle of what was then known as “MacKay’s Bush” on the outskirts of Bytown, Thomas MacKay was a key figure in the design and construction of the spectacular set of locks linking the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River.
Without a doubt, Thomas MacKay left a mark on this community. And like the recipients of the medals in architecture, he would have understood the Roman architect Vitruvius’ famous assertion that a structure should exhibit three qualities: firmitatis, utilitatis, venustatis—which is to say, a structure must be strong, useful and graceful.
Each of the buildings and spaces that we celebrate today is a lasting work of beauty and utility. They are public and private, small- and large-scale. They are both concrete and symbolic, and each has uniquely succeeded in intriguing and inspiring those who inhabit them, even if only for a moment.
Our leading architects know the power of built environments to bring us together and to raise our spirits—and, conversely, they know how poor design can isolate and diminish us.
The recipients of these medals have broken new ground in Canadian architecture, and they have demonstrated how art and science can combine to literally build a better country.
Throughout my mandate as governor general, I have seen numerous examples of contemporary Canadian architecture that mark this convergence of art and science. In fact, during a visit to Singapore a little over a year ago, I had the privilege of touring the remarkable new ArtScience Museum designed by Moshe Safdie, a past recipient of this medal.
Designed in the shape of a lotus flower, the ArtScience Museum is a monument to the creative processes that are so fundamental to the human experience. It is also proof that Canadians are among the world’s most talented and sought-after architects.
Through the innovative use of design, materials and landscapes, the recipients of the medals in architecture have contributed to the richness and diversity of our country.
I would like to thank each of their clients for supporting such outstanding work, as well as the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts for its ongoing efforts to encourage excellence.
On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to each of our laureates for their remarkable achievements.