Naturalizing a key downtown public open space and commemorating a national hero
Perched above Downtown Guelph, the newly renovated Guelph Civic Museum envisioned a visual and physical connection to its evolving downtown. Brook McIlroy’s bold design announces the museum’s presence, while at the same time creating a functional, programmable space.
The design creates a home for a new bronze statue by artist Ruth Abernethy featuring John McCrae, the World War One medic and former Guelph resident who authored “In Flanders Fields”. Following themes associated with World War One, the new landscape includes striking rows of flowering Serviceberry trees, an expanded programmable area highlighted with large poppy motifs, and a series of naturalized, wildlife-attracting meadows. Row on Row: Forty-four flowering Serviceberry trees planted in diagonal rows frame views of the bronze statue of John McCrae, and evoke a ‘row on row’ image as immortalized in his poem: “In Flanders fields the poppies grow; between the crosses, row on row,…”
Poppy Motif: Inspired by McCrae’s poem, the poppy has become a powerful symbol to remember the sacrifices made during the war. Precast concrete poppy inlays next to the bronze statue of McCrae visually draw the eye towards the piece and keep the space functional in all seasons.
Naturalizing Downtown: The Museum’s prominent, sloped front yard design prioritizes naturalization, diversity, and habitat creation to create a place of renewal. Established from a diverse mix of native species and punctuated by bold stripes of woody shrub planting, the slope is designed to become a self-sustaining beacon of nature in a quickly intensifying downtown urban environment.