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The conservation of landscape architecture in Canada: a historical survey  

Ron Williams  
Full professor (retired), School of Landscape architecture
Faculté de l’aménagement, Université de Montréal

While some of Canada’s heritage landscapes are universally admired and have become sacrosanct national icons, others remain under-appreciated. Some are even in serious danger, as our society is buffeted by rapid social and economic changes. In response to these challenges, recent decades have seen the emergence of a variety of imaginative strategies that seek to preserve Canada’s heritage landscapes. Perhaps the most authentic of these approaches lies in the permanence of long-term ownership or management of a site, as seen in the Ursuline Monastery in Quebec City: this ensures continuity in patterns of use, maintenance, landscape materials and design vocabulary. With landscapes that have lost their original purpose, a viable strategy can be to adapt them to new clienteles and activities, while retaining their essential character and configuration, as at Granville Island in Vancouver. Conversion to use as an open-air museum can also be a useful solution, as demonstrated by Lower Fort Garry, a historic fur-trading post near Winnipeg. Sometimes, as at the fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, the complete reconstruction of a vanished historic landscape may be appropriate; but more often, in the case of still existing but damaged landscapes, revitalisation is sufficient, as seen at the Cataraqui villa in Quebec City. These various strategies, however, have not entirely stopped the destruction of historic landscapes; a considerable number of sites are still the focus of debate between conservation and inappropriate development.