Making of the Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

Find out about the role Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) played in the design and construction of the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

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About the new centre

Veterans Affairs Canada asked PSPC to act as the project manager for the design and construction of a new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. PSPC managed not only the construction of the building but the design and creation of the exhibits. 

This new permanent centre replaces a temporary welcome centre built in 2005. The opening of the Visitor Education Centre Centre is part of commemorative events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 2017. The centre is open to the public as of April 10, 2017.

The goal of the new centre is to improve the visitor experience at the national historic site by informing and educating visitors about the contributions and sacrifices of Canadians in the First World War.

Construction work started in November 2015. The project was completed on time, on scope and on budget, for a total of $10 million.

Videos

Watch three videos to learn more about the new Visitor Education Centre and the role PSPC played in its making.

Video 1: The significance of the Visitor Education Centre

Learn about the importance of building the new Visitor Education Centre.

Transcript: The significance of the Visitor Education Centre

Michel Langlois, Project Manager, PSPC: What an impact this kind of project had on me, my god. First, it’s an honour to be part of … it makes me emotional just thinking about it. It’s an honour to be part of a project like this. The entire team in place, the entire team we worked with … it’s a colossal amount of work, and everyone was involved emotionally too.

Robert Martin, Lead Design Architect: For me to work on the Visitor Centre of Vimy Ridge was an incredible honour for a whole host of reasons, both personal and professional. It was immensely gratifying to be part of the project team. I’d also had the fortune to work on some of the other memorial sites in France and Belgium, and to be able to continue this was such a plus.

Linda Dicaire, Landscape Architect, Vimy Oaks: It’s important because there are many visitors who come to the site who have an appreciation of the memorial and of the battlefield, but want to know more. And a Visitor Education Centre can change its program over time, but it can in the immediate future give an account and better explain some of the important dimensions of this site.

Michel: It’s a project … it’s an important site for Canada, and the Visitors Education Centre offers, I think, the tools to be able to understand this extraordinary site. Despite the fact that it was a … it was a request with a relatively modest budget, I think that in any case in my opinion I think that it was a success. Maybe the critics will tell you, but what we succeeded in doing it’s a building that … that speaks to the site … that has architectural strength … strength at the level of the museography too. This museum here has as much content as a large museum.

Video 2: Construction of the Visitor Education Centre

Watch the centre grow from the ground up.

Transcript: Construction of the Visitor Education Centre

Music begins.

Vimy: Canadian National Vimy Memorial – New Visitor Education Centre

The video starts with images of Vimy Ridge in France, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial monument and the site where the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place.

The video proceeds to show images of the construction of the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, from the foundation to the walls going up and the installation of exhibit items.

The video ends with the following text: New Visitor Education Centre opening April 10, 2017.

Video 3: Interview with the lead design architect

Listen to the lead design architect speaking about his experience on this project.

Transcript: Interview with the lead design architect

Robert Martin, Lead Design Architect: The inspiration for the Visitor Centre is rooted in the landscape. Vimy and its surroundings are haunting. You can see the traces of, and scars of, the battle still there on the undulating ground and amidst the trees. So the landscape really was what spoke to us.

From a personal level, my own grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme nearby and one of the few material things that he left us was his wartime diary that spoke of these incredible torments and trials, so dragging heavy guns through the muddy – muddy fields.

I would say our work was received extremely well. It was a very collaborative effort. There were people contributing from both Canada and France, and even the construction team is sort of representative of a pan European group from Belgium and Italy and France and even America.

In Europe there’s an extensive real – even to this date a real sense of appreciation and gratitude for Canada’s sacrifice and contribution, and so, you know, in small senses I’ve had complete strangers come up to me, and you know, offer me drinks or offer expressions of thanks, which always feels a bit awkward because I don’t have, I’d say a personal connection, but these sentiments are quite profound.

Our experience working with PSPC was really exemplary, I would say. We were supported at every step of the way by a very dedicated project management team and the level of trust and support that they placed in us and our group was just so gratifying and really made the difference in terms of being able to do good work.

Related links

Other historic sites or monuments restored by Public Services and Procurement Canada

More information

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