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. Creemore Farm
  35. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  36. Dickson Park Garden
  37. Dilworth Residence
  38. Don Landing Revitalization
  39. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  40. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  41. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  42. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  43. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  44. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  45. Elizabeth Fry Society
  46. Ellsworth Residence
  47. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  48. First Avenue Garden
  49. First Avenue Residence
  50. Flyover Canada
  51. Foote’s Pond Wood
  52. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  53. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  54. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  55. Gormley Garden
  56. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  57. Greener P
  58. Greer Road Garden
  59. Greer Road Residence
  60. Guelph Bridge
  61. Head in the Clouds
  62. Helena Ave Residence 4
  63. Junction Craft Brewery
  64. Kelpies Competition
  65. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  66. Kipling & Islington Developments
  67. Le jardin du repos
  68. Lenticular Curtain
  69. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  70. Liberty Village Parkettes
  71. Liza’s Garden
  72. Lynwood Garden
  73. Macroscape
  74. Markham Garden One
  75. Markham Street Residence Two
  76. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  77. Mulock Park
  78. Nathan Phillips Square
  79. – Streetscape
  80. – Peace Garden
  81. – Podium Roof Garden
  82. Orchard View Garden
  83. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  84. Owl Cottage
  85. Paperstone Scissors
  86. Peripheral Sitings
  87. Pottery Road Crossing
  88. rare
  89. Ravine Forecourt
  90. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  91. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  92. Roxborough Garden One
  93. Roxborough Garden Two
  94. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  95. Ryerson University Science Building
  96. Schulich School of Business
  97. Sheridan College
  98. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  99. Spadina Quay Wetland
  100. St. Anne's Road Garden
  101. Stratford Market Square Competition
  102. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  103. Superkids Dental
  104. Superlegible
  105. Sweet Farm
  106. Sweet Farm Pond House
  107. Swift Medical Offices
  108. The Meadows Reconsidered
  109. The Red Sash
  110. Thick & Thin
  111. Thistletown II Townhouses
  112. Tipping Point
  113. Tranby Garden
  114. Tree House Residence
  115. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  116. UHN Tunnels
  117. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  118. Venice Biennale 2012
  119. Vermont Square Park
  120. Vernon Avenue Garden
  121. Walk the Walk
  122. Walmer Road Residence
  123. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  124. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  125. Wells Street Residence
  126. Westminster Residence
  127. With Words as Their Actions
  128. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  129. Woven Stories
  130. York Park