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A window on Canada’s First World War

A visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial provides an incredible opportunity to learn about and connect with Canada’s First World War history. The inspired design of Walter Allward’s beautiful monument evokes tremendous emotion. The site’s preserved trenches and tunnels provide a glimpse into the lives of those who stood here so long ago. And the battle-scarred landscape that still lays claim to so many fallen provides a constant reminder of the true cost of war.

Architects designing the site’s new Visitor Education Centre faced a difficult task. Their challenge was to find a way to help visitors better understand the powerful elements they would encounter while still allowing them to remain firmly connected with the memorial and surrounding landscape. The resulting building elegantly accomplishes that goal with the aid of one key element: windows.

Looking out

No matter where visitors are in the new Visitor Education Centre, they will always remain firmly grounded in their surroundings thanks to a wall of windows stretching across the entire length of the building’s rear wall. The floor to ceiling panes of glass overlook some of the site’s preserved trenches and craters—a unique view that can’t be found anywhere else.

Working together to support the larger site, the building and its exhibit recognize that the Canadian National Vimy Memorial is the best teacher of all.

Looking in

While windows play an obvious architectural role, they also figure prominently in the Centre’s educational goal of providing a window on Canada’s First World War experience.

Entitled We Will Remember, the Centre’s exhibit traces Canada and Newfoundland’s involvement in the First World War through the stories of everyday Canadians whose lives were forever changed. By incorporating history, storytelling and artefacts, the exhibit allows visitors to learn about Canada’s journey, the importance of events at Vimy Ridge, and the creation of the beautiful monument built to honour those who served.

Looking forward

As visitors look through the tall windows over battle scarred terrain that still lays claim to so many fallen, they’ll also have one more view to consider: the future. The Centre’s heavy emphasis on remembrance challenges visitors to not only learn about how Canada’s commemorative movement grew, but to also consider their responsibility in carrying that tradition forward to future generations.

The message is simple: The First World War shaped the history of Canada and the world. We owe a tremendous debt to those who were willing to give everything on our behalf. Ensuring that their sacrifice is always remembered is our sacred duty and everyone has a role to play.

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