Following up on the previous post, below are my original notes for “best public space in Ottawa” the multi-part piece Maria Cook put together for an end-of-year feature in the Citizen. I say “original notes” because Maria had to remind me that the idea was to be “built in 2010”, so in the end I had to submit notes for a different space altogether. (The “Wellington Marbles” sculpture walk, as it happens.)
Of course, I realize the obvious knock for picking the usually-deserted Garden of the Provinces is “well, where’s the public then?’ The photo above doesn’t show too many people lounging by the fountain; neither do these daytime shots of roughly the same part of the park. Still, it is a wonderful little spot, and the deserted feel can even work to its benefit. If you’ve had a long hard day with too many meetings, the quiet Garden can feel like a meditative space.
Here is the way I put it to Maria:
If this lovely park was near the eastern end of Sparks or Wellington it would be the public square we always complain is missing from our urban fabric. I love sitting on a bench in the late afternoon, perhaps with a Cuban cigar purchased from a one of the hotel tobacconists close by, and wondering where all the people are. It’s such a well-designed park; modern and spare, yet green and restful. It’s got its share of little surprises too; as the blogger “Midcentury Modernist” recently pointed out, like the gothic arches cut into the retaining wall under Christ Church Cathedral — actually the covered-over doors of disused public washrooms –or the trio of upside-down bronze sculptures by Bruce Garner, seemingly reeling from the fumes of the sewer vent that serves as their base.
The park functions like a reward for exploring the western reaches of Sparks Street where few pedestrians seem to go; someday if we are lucky it may also function as the perfect transition between downtown and a developed Nanny Goat Hill/ escarpment area.
What do you think? Do you ever venture out as far as the Garden of the Provinces, or do you have your own little-known public space to calm and soothe amidst the bustle?
photo by Jordan Young