Tipping Point: When reason becomes repression and an idea overtakes reality, the tipping point is what turns light to darkness and darkness to light.

The team of PLANT Architect Inc. and artists Blue Republic, with historian Eric Beck Rubin is one of six shortlisted teams invited to participate in Canada’s National Victims of Communism Memorial in Ottawa. One of the hallmarks of Communist regimes is the zealous construction of monuments to Communism, from epic-scale constructions to the insidious renaming of cities and streets. Communist regimes stained the nature of the conventional memorial and we believe it is unreasonable to commemorate this historical tragedy and trauma with the same types of monuments, architecture and design that previous regimes used as forms of propaganda. To our team, the key question of this competition was how to make a memorial within a context that calls into question the value of memorials, as we have known them.

Tipping Point comprises five elements which together narrate the journey from Victim to Refuge along the axis from the National Archives (our seat of collective memory), to the Supreme Court (our seat of justice) – a journey of engagement and revelation: The Knot, an 11.3 m tall bronze sculpture; the Processional entry and bronze Ribbon of Names; The Ring, the arena and main gathering space; and The Garden of Nations contemplative garden

The Communist system’s stranglehold on societies it dominated is represented by the Knot: the symbol of control but also the breaking point, of resistance and survival, of suffering and solidarity, imprisonment and freedom, of breaking free of bondage, through its physical, conceptual, and figurative tension. Rope is a universal metaphor – something ordinary and useful that can also be employed in other ways we are all familiar with – a device of detainment and torture.

View of the central ring
View toward the National Library & Archives to the west
View of the central ring at dusk
View toward the National Library & Archives at dusk

The Ring is carved into the topography of the park and shapes a powerful bowl-like, embracing space for ceremonies – it is a theatre, arena, and agora – a crucible overlooked by the Knot. It evokes community, solidarity and unity, but resounds with the memory of how those qualities were perverted in precisely these spaces. The space is an embodiment of the fine line between the two.

The Garden of Nations is a contemplative woodland garden with scattered stone erratics. The Canadian community of each country that has or is suffering under a totalitarian Communist regime will be invited to contribute a boulder of a characteristic stone or geology representing their country so as to found this new stone in Canada. Each stone will be engraved with the country name. The richness of the stones from around the world reinforces the cultural richness that these victims have brought to Canada.

View of the site from the north.
View looking south to Wellington Street from the Meadow Garden
Night view of the site
View from Wellington Street at night
Winter view of the site
Winter view along Wellington Street looking west

The Processional Entry rises upward, dramatizing the entry into the Ring, and carries the park dedication and meaning cast into the 30m long side wall: This Memorial is dedicated to the multitudes who have suffered under Communist regimes, and to those who found refuge in Canada. The Ribbon of Names – a single line of 1000 names – runs as a solemn handrail along the top and continues into and around the Ring, surrounding visitors with a thousand witnesses to the ceremonies in the Ring.

Aerial view
Aerial view of the site from the southeast
Artist’s sketch of the Knot sculpture
The Knot

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alexandra Park
  7. Aporia Records
  8. Asphalt Poetry
  9. – Poem
  10. Baby Point Gardens
  11. Beach Garden
  12. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  13. Beaty Residence
  14. Bennington Heights Garden
  15. Berkeley Street Residence
  16. Bin-Scarth Garden
  17. Blink and you miss it.
  18. – Poem
  19. Block 22 Landscape
  20. Bloor St. Apartment
  21. Blue Note
  22. Booth Avenue Residence
  23. Boustrophedon Garden
  24. Braemore Gardens Residence
  25. Browning Avenue Residence
  26. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  27. Camp Arowhon Offices
  28. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  29. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  30. Chocolate Loft
  31. City Instrument
  32. Clarendon Garden
  33. Conversation Piece
  34. Cortleigh Boulevard Garden
  35. Creemore Farm
  36. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  37. Dickson Park Garden
  38. Dilworth Residence
  39. Don Landing Revitalization
  40. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  41. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  42. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  43. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  44. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  45. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  46. Elizabeth Fry Society
  47. Ellsworth Residence
  48. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  49. First Avenue Garden
  50. First Avenue Residence
  51. Flyover Canada
  52. Foote’s Pond Wood
  53. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  54. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  55. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  56. Gormley Garden
  57. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  58. Greener P
  59. Greer Road Garden
  60. Greer Road Residence
  61. Guelph Bridge
  62. Head in the Clouds
  63. Helena Ave Residence 4
  64. Junction Craft Brewery
  65. Kelpies Competition
  66. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  67. King's Landing Apartment
  68. Kipling & Islington Developments
  69. Le jardin du repos
  70. Lenticular Curtain
  71. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  72. Liberty Village Parkettes
  73. Liza’s Garden
  74. Lynwood Garden
  75. Macroscape
  76. Markham Garden One
  77. Markham Street Residence Two
  78. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  79. Mulock Park
  80. Nathan Phillips Square
  81. – Streetscape
  82. – Peace Garden
  83. – Podium Roof Garden
  84. Octane Medical Campus
  85. Orchard View Garden
  86. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  87. Owl Cottage
  88. Paperstone Scissors
  89. Pendrith Residence
  90. Peripheral Sitings
  91. Pottery Road Crossing
  92. rare
  93. Ravine Forecourt
  94. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  95. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  96. Roxborough Garden One
  97. Roxborough Garden Two
  98. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  99. Ryerson University Science Building
  100. Schulich School of Business
  101. Sheridan College
  102. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  103. Spadina Quay Wetland
  104. St. Anne's Road Garden
  105. Stratford Market Square Competition
  106. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  107. Superkids Dental
  108. Superlegible
  109. Sweet Farm
  110. Sweet Farm Pond House
  111. Swift Medical Offices
  112. The Meadows Reconsidered
  113. The Red Sash
  114. Thick & Thin
  115. Thistletown II Townhouses
  116. Tipping Point
  117. Tranby Garden
  118. Tree House Residence
  119. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  120. UHN Tunnels
  121. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  122. Venice Biennale 2012
  123. Vermont Square Park
  124. Vernon Avenue Garden
  125. Walk the Walk
  126. Walmer Road Residence
  127. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  128. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  129. Wells Street Residence
  130. Westminster Residence
  131. Weston Village BIA Masterplan
  132. With Words as Their Actions
  133. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  134. Woven Stories
  135. York Park