RAIC Sends Letter to City of Victoria re: Centennial Square Rejuvenation | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

RAIC Sends Letter to City of Victoria re: Centennial Square Rejuvenation

March 20, 2024

To Mayor Marianne Alto and Members of the Victoria City Council

We are reaching out to you on behalf of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) to voice our comments and concerns regarding the City of Victoria’s interest in up-dating Centennial Square. We note the City’s direction to remove the Fountain: ‘The design intent for the civic plaza is to create a flexible space for special events and programming by replacing the existing pool, monoliths, and concrete tiara. ’City of (Victoria Request For Proposals 23-134 - October 27, 2023, Consulting Services – Centennial Square Improvements Phase 1).

As Canada’s national voice for architecture and the architectural profession we applaud efforts to celebrate our country’s architectural heritage, and, in particular, the legacy of RAIC members. However, we are concerned the design integrity of the Square and in particular that of the Centennial Fountain may not be fully appreciated and safeguarded.

We note that Centennial Square was created during an inspired period of creativity in modern planning and urban design. Indeed, what is often referred to as Canada’s Centennial Era, can now be seen as a mid twentieth century benchmark for the maturing of architectural design and urban planning across our nation. Expo 67 was surely a national triumph. There is no doubt that Victoria’s Centennial Square is an outstanding, early, and intact example of what cultural and architectural historians have come to identify as a highpoint in modern Canadian architectural and urban design. Notably, the team design of the Square owes much to the concerted talents and dedication of Victoria’s distinguished local design community. It included prominent members of the RAIC: John Wade FRAIC, Past President; David Hambleton FRAIC, Past President; Alan Hodgson FRAIC; John Di Castri FRAIC, two former directors of British Columbia Building Corporation: George Giles FRAIC and Clive Campbell RAIC; and Robert Siddall RAIC. This group of highly respected Victoria architects collaborated in the planning and execution of the various buildings and segments of the Square. City of Victoria Architect Roderick Clack RAIC headed the project team. As an exemplary demonstration of inter-disciplinary community planning and design, key team members also included: a prominent landscape architect, Dr. Clive Justice FCSLA; the City’s longest serving Superintendent of Parks, Herb Warren; and a highly acclaimed Victoria public artist, Jack Wilkinson. The nature of this wide collaboration, and its abundantly impressive result remain unique to this day.

The scheme was published in Canadian Architect – November 1963 - and was widely published and celebrated locally, and indeed internationally praised on completion. As such it provided inspiration for many following urban renewal projects, as Canada rolled out our first major modern national program of down-town revitalizations. These projects encouraged a design renaissance in large and small towns across the country. The centre-piece of the Square remains its elaborate, elegantly designed Victoria Centennial Fountain. A birthday gift to the City of Victoria from its surrounding municipalities, this remains evident as the nucleus for a complex and unique place - uniting all the many elements of the Square and its framing of old and new buildings. An integrated team of Jack Wilkinson, Clive Justice, Rod Clack, and Alan Hodgson provided the detailed design and construction drawings for the Fountain. Significantly, Rod Clack would go on to become an architect planner with the Ottawa National Capital Commission, providing the design for the National Centennial Fountain on Parliament Hill. In Rod Clack’s own words for Centennial Square: ‘Here is believed to be a design planned to preserve some of ‘Vanishing Victoria” by accepting historic values and at the same time pointing the way to a progressive urban future.” The Centennial Square Project: precis of preliminary and introductory information – City of Victoria Feb 07, 1963.

The Victoria Centennial Fountain, with its surrounding Square, was designed as a monument and symbol of regional unity for Victoria communities. Its geometries continue to act as a popular metaphorical civic hub and gathering place - for Downtown Victoria and beyond. After sixty years of distinguished service, the Fountain, properly restored, can readily continue in this role, for generations to come. The RAIC strongly advocates for recognition of the original mid-century design quality of Centennial Square, as a key reference for any updating. Additionally, the RAIC advocates for the maintenance and restoration of the Victoria Centennial Fountain – a significant and powerful Canadian example of Modernist design It should remain as intended: a vital centre-point for Centennial Square itself.


Mike Brennan                                        Jason Robbins
RAIC Chief Executive Officer               RAIC President