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Michael PfaffMichael Pfaff’s traditional approach to an addition to Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier received an award for design excellence from the School of Architecture at University of Notre Dame.

Student critique of capital project wins plaudits from preservationists

Architecture should respect its context, says UWindsor grad Michael Pfaff (BA visual arts and the built environment, 2013), and his thesis investigating a modernist expansion proposed for the historic Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa has won applause.

Pfaff received the Dean’s Graduate Award for Design Excellence from the School of Architecture at University of Notre Dame, where he completed a post-professional Master’s degree in architectural design and urbanism in May.

His project offered a counter-proposal highlighting continuity between the old and the new.

“Traditional architecture is used as a vehicle to maintain a sense of place and compatibility with the historic fabric of the current hotel,” Pfaff wrote. “Architecture that is appropriate and sensitive to the original historic fabric is necessary to maintain the continuity, sense of place and compatibility with the historic structure.”

His thesis jurors encouraged Pfaff to send his designs to Heritage Ottawa and that city’s planning board, which passed them on to local media.

“I care very much for heritage buildings across Canada, especially the grand railway hotels,” he told CBC Ottawa. “I felt strongly that the new addition would gravely affect not only the hotel’s character and its sense of place but the capital as a whole.”

Peter Coffman, a member of Heritage Ottawa’s board of directors, wrote in a post for Carleton University’s art history blog that Pfaff’s proposal “blends perfectly” with the historic building.

“In today’s climate, the sheer audacity of being so stubbornly respectful is breathtaking,” Coffman wrote. “To design in an overtly and unapologetically historical style, as Pfaff has done, takes real courage.” Read more.

Pfaff will take up a position with the residential architecture and interior design firm McAlpine in Atlanta, Georgia.