The National Trust for Canada, in partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), announces the Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust in Charlottetown, P.E.I., which operates as Confederation Centre of the Arts, as the recipient of the 2015 Prix du XXe siècle for its enduring excellence and national significance to Canadian architecture.
Built in 1964 as the first of Canada’s Centennial buildings, the Centre was founded to commemorate the anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Confederation Conference and the Fathers of Confederation.
The jury citation noted how the project served as a catalyst for the establishment of funding programs that would see more than 800 building projects undertaken as part of the Centennial celebrations of 1967.
“In the lead up to celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it is appropriate that this year’s prize recognizes an outstanding mid-century heritage achievement conceived to celebrate that centennial,” said the National Trust’s Executive Director Natalie Bull. “We are pleased to use the Prix du XXe siècle to bring national attention and understanding to the heritage of the modern movement in Canada.”
The design by architect Dimitri Dimakopoulos, of the Montreal firm Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise, was selected by a national competition that included submissions from a broad spectrum of Canada’s leading designers.
“The Confederation Centre of the Arts is an exceptional architectural tour de force of the mid-20th century,” said the three-member jury. “Fifty years on, lovingly maintained … [it] remains both a key fixture of the daily life of Charlottetown, and an icon of the optimistic spirit of Canada’s centennial era.”
While projecting the impression of a unified whole, the innovative design combines four distinct cultural complexes – theatre, library, art gallery and memorial hall – accessible by an interior concourse and exterior plazas that together sensitively integrate the adjacent historic Province House.
“This preeminent cultural campus of Prince Edward Island was built during a period of unprecedented Canadian nation-building through architecture,” said RAIC President Sam Oboh, FRAIC. “From its expressive skylights and concrete elements to its plaza and graceful steps, it expresses an elegance that defies time.”
The Confederation Centre was designated a National Historic Site in 2003. The architecture firm Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise later became ARCOP and is now Architecture | 49.
The National Trust and RAIC bestow the Prix du XXe siècle to promote public awareness of outstanding Canadian architecture and landmark buildings of the 20th century.
The jury, selected from distinguished scholars and members of the profession, comprised Halifax architect Graeme Duffus, FRAIC, Steven Mannell, FRAIC, director of the College of Sustainability at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and Andrew Waldron, Acting National Historic Sites Superintendent for Georgian Bay and Ontario East.