HALIFAX – Concept plans for a new Halifax museum, Battle of the Atlantic Place, were unveiled today and the design is an exciting one. The new museum is being planned by the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust and will centre on HMCS Sackville.
The Sackville was just one of 123 Canadian Corvettes that went into service during World War II. During the War, Canada’s Corvettes hunted German submarines and protected convoys bound for the United Kingdom. They were instrumental in the Battle of the Atlantic and were one of our country’s major contributions to the War effort. HMCS Sackville is the last of Canada’s Corvettes and for the last two decades, the ship has been open to visitors in the summer from its berth at Sackville Wharf on the Halifax waterfront.
Now, the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust is planning to build a permanent museum to house the Sackville on the Wharf. The Sackville will be the signature exhibit in Battle of the Atlantic Place, but the museum will also include a Canso Flying Boat, interactive exhibits and a memorial hall for the over 5,000 Canadians who died at sea in the Battle of the Atlantic.
There is no more fitting a location for a Battle of the Atlantic museum than Halifax. Halifax was and still is a naval town. During the War, convoys bound for Europe would assemble in the safety of Halifax Harbour, but the fighting was never far away. Several ships were torpedoed right in the harbour approaches. Battle of the Atlantic Place is an opportunity for Halifax to create a national attraction that tells an important Canadian story.
The location at Sackville Wharf is ideally situated at the centre of the waterfront and in close proximity to the Maritime Museum. The design concept calls for lots of glass to create active frontage and the green roof could create additional outdoor space. From the plan, it appears that Battle of the Atlantic Place will block part of the harbour view from Sackville Street. Normally, this would be a bad idea. The view at the end of a street, its terminating vista, is an important planning consideration and the Halifax Regional Municipality emphasizes preserving harbour vistas. Battle of the Atlantic Place, however, isn’t just an ordinary building. It’s a museum and a memorial.
For centuries, city builders have laid out cities to emphasize important public buildings through the use of terminating vistas. Province House in Charlottetown and Queens Park in Toronto are examples of good terminating vistas. Battle of the Atlantic Place is a worthy continuation of this tradition. The designers should be credited for keeping the portion that will jut into the Sackville Street vista short, while still giving it some flair, with a ship-like prow. By keeping the height low on that portion of the museum, Sackville Street’s natural slope will ensure the harbour is still visible behind the Battle of the Atlantic Place from farther up the hill.
If all goes according to plan, the Trust hopes to have the fundraising complete and Battle of the Atlantic Place open for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.