The first railway tunnel in Canada ran from the docks on the St. Lawrence Seaway to downtown Brockville, beneath businesses above. In one case, ventilation for the tunnel ran up through the building above and was hidden as a bank of chimneys on the building’s roof. Though the narrow tunnel has long since finished serving its use, it was recently rehabbed into this fascinating community focus. LED light strips along the walls shift through rainbow colors and pass red blocks of light down the corridor to simulate the passage of a train.
Joining the St. Lawrence
Visiting nearby Canada means looking at a mirror-version of the United States, reflected across the border. Like looking in a mirror, everything is still recognizable. Up is still up. Down is still down. But the brands and the metric units and the nationalism is different. Does looking in the reflection of Ottawa in the Shaw Centre reverse the transformation?
An added bonus: this is technically a self-portrait, with my tiny self down in the foreground.
Capital and Canal
Visiting Ottawa often means a visit to the surreal and somewhat overwhelming Château Laurier. The outside of the hotel, I’ve noted previously, is pretty impressive; the interior doesn’t disappoint, either. For all the polished-floor touches and deep wood paneling, I find the most charming (and perhaps old-school Canadian) feature of the scene is the portrait of Winston Churchill.
Icicles, or Almost Canada
Dotting the road to Ogdensburg’s bridge to Canada are tiny, abandoned houses like this one. It’s rather charming, and just a bit sad, but mostly it reminds me of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, and the obversations that a society can retreat from the frontiers and back into the cities over time. Sprawl and civilization are not inevitable.
Wandering around Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, I kept waiting to find a security checkpoint and guards with assault rifles; I guess I never got far enough before I had to swing back to my chemistry conference. The combination of Gothic architecture with the modern buildings of Ottawa’s skyline, and with the tiny technotouches of modern security systems, made for a delightful combination. This is our science-fiction present, I suppose.
The heart of Ottawa clusters Neo-Gothic architecture around Parliament Hill and the canal. Whether hosting a Lupin-III-esque heist or serving as the perfect setting for a James-Bondian escape scene, it’s hard to shake the imagined adventures of speed boats and thugs on motorcycles negotiating the steps of the lock system
Canadian Death Star
The Ottawa Convention Centre’s fantastical facade of fenestration is a lovely example of the way a pattern of triangles can be assembled to form all sorts of other surfaces with complicated geometries. From the standpoint of symmetry and group theory, it’s quite elegant; from the standpoint of a passer-by on the street, it seems a bit sinister.