Canadian Canoe Museum seeks new site following contamination discovery at planned location

Paddling On

Canadian Canoe Museum seeks new site following contamination discovery at planned location

The winning design for the new Canadian Canoe Museum by Heneghan Peng Architects and Kearns Mancini. (Luxigon/Courtesy Canadian Canoe Museum)

The Canadian Canoe Museum (CCM), a museum in Peterborough, Ontario, dedicated to canoes, announced late last month that it has scrapped plans to build a new Heneghan Peng Architects–designed facility at a Parks Canada–owned site adjacent to the historic Peterborough Lift Loft at the Trent-Severn Waterway.

The decision comes several months after groundwater at the planned canal-side site was found to be contaminated with the cancer-causing industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) and a “variety of other chemicals” per a press statement from the museum. While a potential cleanup effort wasn’t off the table at the time of the discovery, the CCM has now made clear that such an undertaking would be cost-prohibitive and, as a result, the museum has terminated its land lease agreement with Parks Canada. The search, including feasibility studies and environmental assessments, for a new new site is now underway and is expected to be secured by the end of this year. The new location is slated to be “shovel-ready” by the end of 2021 according to the museum, which has been at its current home, a former factory building, since 1997.

“The Canadian Canoe Museum and Parks Canada have worked together to reach an amicable dissolution to the Lift Lock lease agreement at no additional punitive cost to the museum,” explained Carolyn Hyslop, executive director of the CCM. “We are in the process of identifying and selecting a new site for what will be a revised museum design that will complement the waterfront site selection. CCM is committed to being a key economic contributor to Peterborough and the Kawarthas. CCM remains dedicated to building a home that will permit us to share 100 percent of our collection in a facility that meets conservation standards, to creating a new suite of exhibitions, and to increasing opportunities for in-person, digital, and on-water programming.”

As for the current design for the new museum, it will not be realized at the new site, wherever it may ultimately be. Hyslop noted that the “beautiful, award-winning design that was perfectly suited for the Lift Lock location” is “regretfully utterly non-transferable to another location.” Taking the form of a serpentine glass pavilion topped by an expansive green roof doubling as park, the planned 83,000-square-foot museum was designed by Dublin-based Heneghan Peng Architects in partnership with Toronto firm Kearns Mancini Architects. The landscape-integrated complex was selected in a two-stage 2015 international design competition, beating out shortlisted proposals from Kohn Pedersen Fox, Provencher_Roy with NORR, and others. Arup was also part of the finalized project team as structural, mechanical, and electrical engineer, and Foggy River Design was serving as landscape architect.

The CCM described the LEED Silver–aiming building as being “innovative as the canoe itself, and will play a key role in the stewardship of this national cultural asset.” (To be clear, the museum’s collection, the world’s largest of its kind, also includes kayaks and other types of paddled watercraft.)

“It’s been disappointing for all, especially for the museum needing to move from this site,” Róisín Heneghan, cofounder of Heneghan Peng Architects, told the Architects’ Journal. “We were selected after an architectural competition for a design on this site and now that site has changed so I think that the museum needs to go back and find the right team for the project as it will progress.”

When the TCE contamination, believed to be the result of unchecked chemical seepage from an adjacent property, first came to light in late May of this year it wasn’t yet clear whether or not the museum would embark on site remediation work and proceed as planned with some delay or be forced to start from square one. Hyslop, however, hinted at the gravity of the discovery in an earlier press statement, noting: “All of us at the Canoe Museum, our project partners and supporters are highly concerned and extremely disappointed by the situation.” As noted by Global News, escalating costs due in part to delays as well as high cleanup costs contributed to the decision to build an entirely new museum at an entirely new site.

Groundbreaking on the new Canadian Canoe Museum was originally slated to take place during the 2020 fiscal year.