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