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 Residence
  4. Albany Avenue Residence
  5. Aporia Records
  6. Asphalt Poetry
  7. – Poem
  8. Baby Point Gardens
  9. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  10. Beaty Residence
  11. Bennington Heights Garden
  12. Berkeley Street Residence
  13. Bin-Scarth Garden
  14. Blink and you miss it.
  15. – Poem
  16. Blue Note
  17. Booth Avenue Residence
  18. Boustrophedon Garden
  19. Braemore Gardens Residence
  20. Browning Avenue Residence
  21. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  22. Camp Arowhon Offices
  23. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  24. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  25. Chocolate Loft
  26. City Instrument
  27. Clarendon Garden
  28. Conversation Piece
  29. Creemore Farm
  30. Danforth Mosaic BIA
  31. Dickson Park Garden
  32. Dilworth Residence
  33. Don Landing Revitalization
  34. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  35. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  36. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  37. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  38. Elizabeth Fry Society
  39. Ellsworth Residence
  40. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  41. First Avenue Garden
  42. Foote’s Pond Wood
  43. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  44. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  45. Goldring Landscape
  46. Gormley Garden
  47. Greener P
  48. Greer Road Garden
  49. Greer Road Residence
  50. Guelph Bridge
  51. Head in the Clouds
  52. Junction Craft Brewery
  53. Kelpies Competition
  54. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  55. Le jardin du repos
  56. Lenticular Curtain
  57. Liza’s Garden
  58. Lynwood Garden
  59. Macroscape
  60. Markham Garden One
  61. Markham Street Residence Two
  62. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  63. Nathan Phillips Square
  64. – Streetscape
  65. – Peace Garden
  66. – Podium Roof Garden
  67. Orchard View Garden
  68. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  69. Owl Cottage
  70. Paperstone Scissors
  71. Peripheral Sitings
  72. Pottery Road Crossing
  73. rare
  74. Ravine Forecourt
  75. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  76. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  77. Roxborough Garden One
  78. Roxborough Garden Two
  79. Sheridan College
  80. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  81. Spadina Quay Wetland
  82. Stratford Market Square Competition
  83. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  84. Superlegible
  85. Sweet Farm
  86. Sweet Farm Pond House
  87. The Meadows Reconsidered
  88. The Red Sash
  89. Thick & Thin
  90. Tipping Point
  91. Tranby Garden
  92. Tree House Residence
  93. UTM Welcome Landscape
  94. Venice Biennale 2012
  95. Vermont Square Park
  96. Vernon Avenue Garden
  97. Walmer Road Residence
  98. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  99. Wells Street Residence
  100. Westminster Residence
  101. With Words as Their Actions
  102. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  103. Woven Stories
  104. York Park