Le­gion to mark Nov. 11 in its new Kanata home

There is a sense of cer­e­mony, yet prac­ti­cal­ity, to the mod­ern build­ing that re­flects the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s tra­di­tion, MARIA COOK re­ports.

Ottawa Citizen - - City -

Dig­nity. Mod­esty. Sym­bol­ism. Th­ese words be­gin to tell the story of the new na­tional head­quar­ters of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion built in Kanata.

The three- storey build­ing, which opened in Septem­ber, is lo­cated on Aird Place at Castle­frank Road, just west of the Kanata Wave Pool. It is iden­ti­fied by a red poppy em­blem and the Le­gion House sign on the wall fac­ing the Queensway, and can be seen by west­bound trav­ellers.

“ We wanted it to be a very vis­i­ble pres­ence of the Le­gion,” says Do­min­ion sec­re­tary Duane Daly, who is the Le­gion’s chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer. “ It had to be a con­ser­va­tive, deco­rous build­ing, but not over the top.”

The Le­gion is one of Canada’s largest ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions, with 400,000 mem- bers, 1,500 branches and a $ 10- mil­lion an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get. It per­pet­u­ates the tra­di­tion of re­mem­brance in Canada and ad­vo­cates on be­half of vet­er­ans and ex- ser­vice mem­bers — in­clud­ing to­day’s Gulf War vet­er­ans and United Na­tions peace­keep­ers — for pen­sions and dis­abil­ity awards.

Each year, the Le­gion or­ga­nizes and runs the Na­tional Poppy and Re­mem­brance Cam­paign to re­mind Cana­di­ans of the 117,000 men and women who have given their lives in the defence of Canada dur­ing two world wars, the Korean War and other mil­i­tary mis­sions.

But the Le­gion is more than that. It spends $ 3.9 mil­lion a year on needy vet­er­ans, sup­ports cadets, scouts and guides, and ad­vances ama­teur sport; Wayne Gret­zky par­tic­i­pated in Le­gion sports pro­grams, and all Cana­dian medal win­ners at the 1984 Olympics in Los An­ge­les were alumni of the Le­gion’s track and field camps.

“ The Le­gion has a large place in the Cana­dian psy­che,” says An­thony Lean­ing, of CSV Ar­chi­tects, the Ottawa firm that de­signed the build­ing and over­saw its con­struc­tion. “ They do amaz­ing things. They were look­ing for a chance to cel­e­brate that.”

The 32,000- square- foot build­ing is cov­ered in red and buff- coloured brick. Part of the front façade is clad with Tyn­dall stone. Five flag poles fly the colours of the Le­gion. The build­ing, plus land, cost about $ 6 mil­lion.

A long in­clined walk­way from Castle­frank is lined with planters, which will hold red flow­er­ing plants to re­call Re­mem­brance Day pop­pies. The fore­court is for­mal, land­scaped with a rec­tan­gu­lar lawn and paving.

Ottawa land­scape ar­chi­tect David Lash­ley car­ries through the red theme with maples and burn­ing bush.

“ There’s a sense of cer­e­mony about the build­ing,” says ar­chi­tect Robert Froom, the chief de­signer. “ It’s not an or­di­nary of­fice build­ing.”

It in­cludes a 7,000- square­foot ware­house for the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s $ 2- mil­lion- a- year busi­ness dis­tribut­ing Le­gion prod­ucts such as uni­forms, flags, bumper stick­ers and pins. About 50 peo­ple work in the build­ing in fi­nance, mem­ber­ship, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so on, and Le­gion mag­a­zine, the fourth largest mag­a­zine in Canada, is pro­duced. And the ser­vice bureau helps about 1,000 vet­er­ans, still- serv­ing mil­i­tary and RCMP per­son­nel and de­pen­dants in their bid to ob­tain dis­abil­ity pen­sions and ben­e­fits.

Mr. Daly had en­vi­sioned a one- storey build­ing to avoid the wasted space and ex­pense of stairs and el­e­va­tors, but the ar­chi­tects pointed out that it could be more eco­nom­i­cal to build on three lev­els. Be­cause the site is sloped, “ we re­al­ized that to give the build­ing some pres­ence, we needed to get it up higher,” adds Mr. Froom. “ We put the ware­house be­neath the build­ing to raise it up.”

In 1956, when the for­mer head­quar­ters on Kent Street in Cen­tre­town opened, then- gov­er­nor gen­eral Vin­cent Massey said the build­ing rep­re­sented the Le­gion’s com­mit­ment to free­dom, jus­tice and truth. “ I feel this struc­ture sym­bol­izes so well the Le­gion’s two great func­tions — one spir­i­tual, one phys­i­cal,” he told dig­ni­taries at the open­ing cer­e­mony. “ You are pledged to keep alive the flame of re­mem­brance for those who died in their coun­try’s ser­vice, and you work faith­fully in the in­ter­ests of those among us who bore arms.”

There are more than 250,000 war vet­er­ans in Canada, al­though they are grad­u­ally dis­ap­pear­ing — the av­er­age age of Sec­ond World War vet­er­ans is 82 and Korean vet­er­ans are in their 70s. Faced with an ag­ing six- storey build­ing, the Le­gion de­cided to sell rather than up­grade, and use the pro­ceeds for a pur­pose- built struc­ture.

The old build­ing “ was very ex­pen­sive to main­tain,” says Mr. Daly. “ It was too large for our re­quire­ments. We were hav­ing to func­tion as a land­lord.”

In ad­di­tion to need­ing a ware­house, the Le­gion wanted to be near a ho­tel and restau­rants. It hosts about 40 meet­ings a year for com­mit­tees and the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil.

“ We would have pre­ferred a site in the down­town core, but there were none that met our re­quire­ments,” says Mr. Daly.

The two- acre site pro­vides pedes­trian ac­cess to ac­com­mo­da­tion, restau­rants and shop­ping at the Cen­trum plaza and the Kanata Town Cen­tre.

The bridge ad­ja­cent to the Le­gion’s build­ing, the Castle­frank Road- Kanata Av­enue over­pass, is about to be­come part of the Le­gion’s iden­tity. The city and the Le­gion will hold a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony on Dec. 1 to name it Val­our Bridge. The project marks the Le­gion’s 80th an­niver­sary this year. Plaques will be af­fixed to pil­lars at ei­ther end of the bridge.

On the inside walls of the bridge will be 16 smaller plaques, com­mem­o­rat­ing sig­nif­i­cant bat­tles and mis­sions in­volv­ing the Cana­dian Forces.

Inside the build­ing, a dou­ble­height foyer fea­tures a red wall, where a 3.3- me­tre stain­less steel sculp­ture de­pict­ing the Sword of Sac­ri­fice will be mounted next week, as will text from the poem For the Fallen by Lau­rence Binyon: “ At the go­ing down of the sun and in the morn­ing/ We will re­mem­ber them.”

JULIE OLIVER, OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN

Ar­chi­tects Robert Froom, left, and An­thony Lean­ing sur­vey their firm’s work at Le­gion House. Mr. Lean­ing says the or­ga­ni­za­tion en­joys ‘ a large place in the Cana­dian psy­che. They do amaz­ing things. They were look­ing for a chance to cel­e­brate that.’

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