The Oak Bay Cenotaph, constructed in 1948 to honour the 97 Oak Bay men and women who died during World War II, is a fixture on the eastern tip of Uplands Park, and the focus of local Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Like all special public places, a Cenotaph has relevance to the community’s past, present and future. It embodies our memory of the people who sacrificed to preserve freedoms, it is a gathering place for ceremonies and everyday moments of reflection, and it can help point the way to our preferred future.
Led by Oak Bay Councillor Tara Ney, the Oak Bay Cenotaph Task Group has been looking into ways “to strengthen public recognition of the site as a special place and enhance its use as a place of remembrance and reflection beyond its traditional association with the annual November 11 Remembrance Day ceremony.” Toward that end, the Group hosted a site planning charrette (workshop) on Thursday, October 27 and invited the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network to facilitate the evening. GVPN President Ray Straatsma and Directors Lorne Daniel and Andrew Appleton led a diverse group of 25 stakeholders through a series of activities to review the site’s historical and geographic significance in Uplands Park, its current design and usage, and ideas for redesigns that would better support remembrance, reflection, and the pursuit of peace.
Each participant was asked to think of a single word that reflected what they would like the site to evoke. The list was impressive in its diversity but also in the compatibility of its themes.
After two small groups had shared thoughts on the role of the park in the Oak Bay’s future, the focus turned to specifics of the monument and its site. Stakeholders discussed access points and routing to the site (from Cattle Point, along Beach Drive, and through Uplands Park), what amenities would make it a comfortable space for quiet reflection, design elements to support the large groups that gather for ceremonies, preservation of natural landscapes, the historic significance of the monument, and many elements of the space.
By the end of the three hours, the participants had brought together diverse perspectives into a set of design principles and concepts. The task group will now work with that input and report back to Oak Bay Council. The group hopes to obtain federal funding to support future enhancements that retain the dignity and history of the monument, while recognizing that visitors come from diverse backgrounds seeking equally diverse opportunities for contemplation and reflection.
Thanks to The District of Oak Bay for involving us in this placemaking project.