Posted: Jan 3, 2012, 3:32 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Gatineau, QC
Greber and Gatineau Park
Not sure if it is in the correct section - if not just moved it in the Transportation section.
But I had to post this article regarding Greber's letter back in the 1950s regarding Gatineau Park.
Jacques Gréber would not approve Hwy. 5 extension, newly found letter reveals
By Tom Spears, The Ottawa Citizen January 2, 2012 9:07 PM
Nearly half a century after Jacques Gréber’s death in 1962, a newly found letter from the French architect and planner suggests that Gatineau Park needs stronger protection.
Both the letter and Gréber’s descendants also suggest that the man who designed Ottawa and Gatineau wouldn’t think highly of the extended Highway 5.
From Paris, Xavier Reynaud says his great-grandfather loved Gatineau Park, and would be shocked to see highway construction cutting through the forest near the park’s eastern edge.
Reynaud has a copy of a letter the Gréber wrote in 1952, which says Gatineau Park — not central Ottawa — is the heart of his Plan for the National Capital. He called the Citizen this week to discuss it.
Calling the park a “magnificent forest reserve,” Gréber’s letter adds that its unique status — wilderness just outside a capital city — demands a “permanent program of enlargement and protection.”
It says the “natural structure, the infinite variety of its beauty and the possibilities that its attractions present are far greater than the attributes of an ordinary municipal park in the service of the population.”
Then the kicker: “In fact, this is really the central nucleus of the overall management plan for the national capital of Canada.”
“I recently saw an interview that he gave to the CBC in 1961, in which he was asked what he considered his most important commission,” Reynaud said.
“He responded without hesitation that it was the planning of the national capital region of Canada.
It was only recently that Reynaud, who is married to a woman from Toronto and regularly visits Canada, learned of the extension of Highway 5. Crews are currently blasting away steep hills and cutting forests to join Wakefield to Gatineau with four lanes.
“If my great-grandfather were still alive today, he would be simply devastated to learn about Highway 5 and would have expressed his opposition, obviously,” he said.
It doesn’t matter that the National Capital Commission has shifted the boundaries to ensure that the road is outside the actual park, he says, since the clear-cutting still affects trees that are part of the park’s ecosystem.
Gréber is known here for his redesign of the capital, expanding urban parks and pathways and including a new vision of the periphery. The Greenbelt is his idea; he called it an “emerald necklace” around the city.
He had designed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia in 1917 — a boulevard with fountains and trees lined by public buildings. (These include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Sylvester Stallone runs up the steps in the movie Rocky.)
He was also the master architect of the 1937 Paris International Exposition. He worked extensively in the United States, and in 1937 Mackenzie King invited him to Ottawa and entertained him at Kingsmere.
Gréber shows his overall vision for the park in his 1952 letter to the Federal District Commission, the forerunner of the National Capital Commission. Reynaud sent a copy to the Citizen.
The park had grown to 40,000 acres by 1952, but Gréber wanted far more — 85,000 to 100,000 acres. It’s currently about 89,200 acres, or 36,100 hectares.
He warned against over-development inside park borders, saying this might harm “components of the natural landscape that could be quickly ruined or completely destroyed by speculation, disorderly development and undesirable subdivision resulting from the park’s growing success.”
In an era when Canadians were building summer cottages and tourist attractions on every lakeshore in sight, Gréber took the long view and put nature ahead of development — though he did allow for skiing, camping, swimming and other human uses.
Over-building with cottages, cabins and snack bars “would transform this splendid and peaceful landscape into a nightmarish chaos.”
And his warning extends to land outside park boundaries. He clearly describes the danger of letting major development crowd the edges of the park:
“It would be very sad if one authorized such degradation of the landscape just outside the park limits while the FDC is trying by all means to protect the zone inside these limits.”
The current highway extension is just outside the eastern park limits, according to the NCC — but inside them according to its opponents on the Gatineau Park Committee, which doesn’t recognize the validity of a boundary change.
Gréber was much less worried by existing private homes in the park. A big park, he wrote, would have plenty of room for nature, too.
The French architect and planner remains a figure of active study. In November, planners and landscape architects from the United States and Europe gathered for a conference about his work, held in the Portuguese city of Porto.
The conference was held by the Serralves Foundation, an art foundation whose mission is to raise awareness of contemporary art and the environment.
Gréber did work in Porto in the 1930s and also taught Robert Auzelle, who produced the city’s plan of 1962. The conference aimed “to deepen this coincidence and, inspired by Jacques Gréber, seize this opportunity to explore the relationship between garden art and town planning and revisit feats and influences in the city of Porto of the 1930s to the 60s.”
This conference surprised Gréber’s family, who hadn’t realized their ancestor remained so widely known today.
“He was totally famous in the family of course, but curiously he wasn’t that much in France,” Reynaud said.
Reynaud and his wife, Chai, also know the family story of the tapestry woven in Aubusson and presented to Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent by French Ambassador Hubert Guérin in 1950.
The silk and wool tapestry blended 250 colours chosen to symbolize Canadian nature, colours taken from leaves gathered by Gréber himself in Gatineau Park.
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