“Canoe Canoe?” Remember that jingle from the ad for cologne back in, what, the 1970s or ’80s? Get it? Can you canoe! It rushed to mind with news that the design competition for a relocated Canadian Canoe Museum, in Peterborough, Ont., has been narrowed down to five entries.
All but one are predictable, and the one that isn’t is the most predictable of all, but in a puckish way that endears one to its ridiculosity.
I refer to the entry by Bing Thom Architects and Lett Architects. Drawings of all five proposals have been published at KawarthaNOW.com. The four predictably predictable entries all feature modern architecture that seems, typically, to have little to do either with the elegant Peterborough Lift Lock – designed by Richard Birdsall Rogers, completed in 1904 – on the Otonabee River, which is near Lake Ontario and the new location for the museum, or any other part of the city of some 79,000.
But the Bing Thom/Lett proposal daringly features a pair of crossed canoes. You can see the lift lock toward the right of the illustration above. A pair of crossed canoes is no sillier than the more orthodox modernist entries, but much more refreshing. One thinks of the array of ice-hockey sticks in the tanked entry by Thom Mayne for the Alaska state capitol – though Mayne claims the hockey sticks are actually glaciers. If the Thom/Lett entry wins the museum design competition and gets built, nobody will be in any doubt that the structure is supposed to be a pair of canoes. They are not abstract in the least but fully rendered long hull canoes, very prettily arrayed as the roof of the museum.
Do Canadians really want a Canoe Museum that brings to mind Venturi’s decorated sheds from Learning from Las Vegas? Or would this roof of crossed canoes be more duck than decorated shed? Either way, a little dated, eh?
The museum should cancel and reissue the competition challenge and make noises about how nice it would be to see an entry that picks up on the Peterborough Lift Lock. I’m sure most Ontarians would like that, and it would probably attract more visits from Americans.