Canadian Building Trades Monument Winning Design Team Announced

Jan 26, 2016



“Building is the most optimistic of human acts. This monument celebrates and honours the Canadian building tradesmen and women who construct the world around us. As you enter this place, you are invited to reflect on their accomplishments and on your role as a participant.”

– John Greer & Brian MacKay-Lyons

The Halifax-based design team of sculptor John Greer and architect Brian MacKay-Lyons has been selected to design, fabricate and install the Canadian Building Trades Monument. The monument will be located on a prominent site overlooking the Rideau Canal and Canada’s Parliament buildings in Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa, ON.

Greer and MacKay-Lyons were selected based on a proposal they submitted as one of 4 finalists, who were selected from 40 submissions received in response to a national Request for Qualifications.

The successful design proposed by Greer and MacKay-Lyons during the finalist phase is understood to be part of an ongoing design development process that may result in further evolution prior to the build and installation of the monument in 2017.

The design of the Canadian Building Trades Monument proposes a powerful, elegant and welcoming plaza for Canadian tradespeople, their families, and all Canadians to reflect on the contributions of the trades to Canada’s past, present and future.

The monument will be fabricated in Ontario with Cambrian black granite, quarried in Quebec. Its most prominent feature will be a pair of oversized plumb bobs, one of the oldest tools known to mankind. The monument will also feature 16 iconic ‘tools of the trades’ etched into the granite. Each tool will be chosen by one of the 14 different trade unions sponsoring the monument.

Greer and MacKay-Lyons have proposed a design for a monument that is at once profoundly solemn and deeply inspiring. The black granite and spacious plaza invite visitors to enter the environment, and to empathize with the sacrifices made by tradespeople. Yet the exquisite craftsmanship also suggests a commitment to excellence, and the larger-than-life plumb bobs with their vaguely human forms stand tall, symbolizing the essential strength of the building trades and the pride of those who practice them.

The minimal materials – granite and stainless steel – have been selected to create a sense of unity, gravity and place. Granite is from the core of our Earth, emerging from liquid to hardened state, it is the skin of the Earth. We build and we live on this skin and are all connected to the core through gravity.

The plumb bob represents the intersection of earthly gravity and human ingenuity. All trades are ultimately variations on this theme – skilled workers using human tools to reshape raw earthly materials, using labour and skill to build our world from the ground up. The concave and convex granite elements symbolize irregular natural topography vs. the idealized human-made ‘level’ plane of the plaza.

Ultimately, this design is not a portrait of any individual or any trade or time. It represents all tradesmen and tradeswomen of the past, present and future.

Robert Blakely, Canadian Operating Officer of Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), explains, “CBTU is proud to offer this monument as a gift to all Canadians. The jury had a difficult time choosing one team from so many excellent submissions, but we believed deeply in the winning team’s skill as craftsmen, the sculpture’s exceptional quality and its layers of meaning, which will be symbolic of the foundational nature of our work, our sacrifices, and our strengths as builders. It will be built to last.”

To complete the monument and to represent each trade, assistance will be requested from sponsoring unions to select one tool each to include in the monument design. Please contact your union to participate in the selection. We look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of the Canadian Building Trades Monument.

With thanks,

Canada’s Building Trades Unions Board Monument Sub-committee