Beechwood National Memorial Centre
Ottawa, Ontario


Within the context of Beechwood’s one hundred and sixty acres of stunning landscaping and picturesque rural cemetery roots, the design for the National Memorial Centre derives inspiration from the “geometry of nature” and the “nature of geometry’s”, which are meanings for different faiths.

Built as a multi-faith centre, the design attempts to respond to established traditions and symbolism, while not privileging one faith over another.

In 2001, Beechwood became the home of the National Military Cemetery of the Canadian Forces. Designated as a National Historic Site by The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 2002, Beechwood is one of only few cemeteries in the nation to have received this honour.

The National Memorial Centre was opened by the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean on April 7, 2008. In May 2009, Beechwood was designated Canada’s National Cemetery by act of Parliament.

Beechwood National Memorial Centre
Ottawa, Ontario


The program for the project includes:

  • A circular (nine-sided) Multi-faith Memorial Hall. This space can be configured to all faith needs. Extensive consultations with faith group representatives were undertaken to ensure that appropriate symbolism could apply to all.
  • Reception Rooms sized to suit different scales of memorial and cultural events. These rooms open onto a central courtyard which lights the rooms and which contains plantings to mark the changing seasons.
  • A Hall of Colours to display the laid-up colors of Canada's military regiments. In its role as Canada’s National Military Cemetery, complementing the memorial space, is a large reception hall with an adjacent “Hall of Colors”. This hall features a stained-glass window designed by and for military chaplains of all faiths to honor those members of the Forces who have served their country.
  • Support spaces, including arrangement rooms, a preparation area, offices and washrooms. Corridors are lined with cabinets housing Beechwood history, including the Book of Remembrance.
  • An entry forecourt bracketed by a reflecting pool on one side and an aromatic herb “healing garden” on the other.

Beechwood National Memorial Centre
Ottawa, Ontario

Goals / Challenges

  • To create a multi-faith memorial centre to serve the needs of all persons, recognizing Beechwood’s rich history and storied past while looking forward to the future.
  • In an age of difference manifested by so much strife in the world, to provide a place to celebrate the commonalities of all faiths and the oneness of humanity.
  • Recognizing that acts of remembrance may take many forms, to create a place for differing rituals; these rituals may be established by faith or may be crafted based on personal needs.
  • Extensive use of innovative Building Information Modeling, which was used throughout the process to facilitate planning and communications, constructability reviews, material takeoffs and construction interferences.
  • Due to the nine-sided circular shape of the sacred space, acoustic performance was of prime concern; after consultation with acoustics consultants, to both refract and absorb sound, clear-finish, birch veneer plywood layered profile panels were designed for the upper walls and stained plywood slats, with acoustic media above, were used for the ceiling areas.
© 2011 Robertson Martin Architects | legal