The RPRA and its Heritage Committee have started a series of events to engage Rockclifffe Park residents and other Heritage Conservation Districts in Ottawa in a dialogue on heritage issues. This started with a talk by Julian Smith–internationally recognized expert in heritage architecture, planning, and conservation – at our Community Hall on March 14. If heritage communities are to survive, he calls for a paradigm shift in the way cities think about heritage conservation, and stated that cities on the west coast in both Canada and the United States are a generation ahead of us.
He noted the importance of the fact that Ontario prescribes the conservation of not only significant heritage buildings, but also significant “cultural heritage landscapes.” However, Ottawa, and others, have failed to understand or embrace what this means–namely that the natural environment, the built environment, and the cultural practices that connect them, must be dealt with as a whole. To succeed in this, he said that it is critical that the community–usually dismissed as ‘non-experts’ in contrast to salaried staff, paid consultants and the OMB–be given priority in decision-making.
Only the communities themselves carry the direct experience and accumulated knowledge of these cultural heritage landscapes. Without them, it is not possible to sustain the core principles that have shaped these communities over time. The next evening, we invited representatives of other Heritage Conservation Districts in Ottawa–New Edinburgh, The Glebe, Lowertown, Centretown, Sandy Hill, and Briarcliffe—and Heritage Ottawa to join us for a workshop with Julian Smith to explore issues we share in common, and how we can work together to better protect Ottawa’s heritage. We are planning further initiatives to follow up on this and to engage City councillors and City staff.