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Early design slammed

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OTTAWA—A federal advisory panel lambasted an early, sombre design for a national memorial to the victims of communism as potentially “detrimental to the dignity” of nearby Parliament Hill, newly-released documents show.

The National Capital Commission’s advisory committee on planning, design, and realty also had concerns last year about the project’s price tag, “negative symbolism,” and structural safety, particularly in the slippery Ottawa winters, the internal records reveal.

Other documents disclosed under the Access to Information Act say the projected cost of the memorial—to be covered by federal and private funds—almost had doubled to about $6 million by January of this year.

The records help explain why the commission unveiled plans in May for a re-designed and significantly smaller version of the memorial.

The commission is expected to consider a final design in November—after the Oct. 19 federal election.

The Conservative government strongly has backed the planned memorial as a means of recognizing the more than 100 million people around the globe who died or suffered under communist regimes.

The government is managing the project on behalf of Tribute to Liberty, a charity established in 2008.

The initiative has drawn fierce criticism from those who object to the memorial’s stark design and location on a patch of green in the parliamentary precinct long reserved for a new Federal Court building.

A lawsuit aimed at blocking the project has been placed on hold until after the final design has been approved.

It was well-known that the federal advisory committee, composed of leading architects and planners from across Canada, had concerns about the memorial.

But the newly-released minutes of the committee’s Aug. 21 and 22, 2014 meetings reveal disdain for the entry that later would be selected as the winner by a jury.

The design by Toronto-based Abstrakt Studio Architecture features a series of angular peaks, or “memory folds,” with more than 100 million pixel-like “memory squares”—each representing a person—covering the exterior face of the folds.

The initial idea was to have the folds depict a mural of dead bodies when viewed from a distance.

The design also includes a Bridge of Hope and elevated viewing platform.

The members praised the plan to depict individuals as “a strong gesture” and said the overall concept “makes a statement.”

But they also considered the design well over budget; as well as replete with negative symbolism that could be misinterpreted as offering no hope.

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