Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site Management Plan (2 of 20)

Executive Summary

This Management Plan is a long-term framework for managing the Central Experimental Farm as both a National Historic Site and an active research landscape. Prepared for the Corporate Management Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, it represents a collaboration between Branch staff and a consulting team with expertise and experience in urban design, heritage conservation and urban planning. The plan's analysis and the recommendations are based on a cultural landscape approach to land management, an approach that emphasizes the need to understand and describe tangible and intangible values of a place as a whole in advance of making recommendations about the future of its constituent parts.

As part of the first step in developing a Management Plan for the Farm, a review of the original design intentions, subsequent evolution and current conditions of the site and the institution it supports was conducted. This study revealed that the site lacked a clear organizing vision. As a result of these findings, the second and most critical step in the planning process was the preparation of alternative visions in the form of planning scenarios. From these, a decision was made to pursue a vision based on a strong research agenda.

The following vision statement guided the development of the Management Plan for the Central Experimental Farm:

  • To sustain a cultural landscape of national historic significance through a reinvigorated and ongoing agricultural research program.

The following were more specific Management Plan objectives:

  • To strengthen the research identity of the Farm, as the most important path of continuity between its past, present and future
  • To develop appropriate governance models, that recognize this identity and enhance its relationship to the site
  • To provide clear rules of engagement for other agencies and partners
  • To ensure the commemorative and ecological integrity of the cultural landscape and its cultural and natural resources
  • To interpret and present the site to the public, as a scientific landscape of national significance
  • To develop appropriate patterns of access, circulation, and open space
  • To establish clear and sustainable relationships with the adjacent urban context.

After consideration of other options, including a Multiple Identities Option, a Museum-without-Walls Option, and a Public Park Option. The client and the consulting team recommended that the AAFC pursue the Research Option as the strategic direction for the Central Experimental Farm. The Research Option will meet the Plan's vision and objectives, it is most closely tied to AAFC's mandate, and it preserves the research function of the site for future generations. The subject matter of agricultural research will change in unpredictable ways over the next century, but the CEF framework will remain flexible and adaptable to varying research initiatives as it has since its inception. The Research Option is also consistent with the intention to conserve the integrity of the cultural landscape because it reinvigorates the agricultural activities associated with the site since its inception - research, public education and outreach, and demonstration of best practices.

The Management Plan addresses the integration of the new Skyline headquarters complex into the CEF. The old headquarters site provides an appropriate location for communicating the research activities of the AAFC to the public. Redevelopment of this site allows the role of the national collections to be enhanced. The Museum function is also given room to evolve, with possible links to collection management in the Ornamental Gardens and Arboretum areas, as part of the interpretation and public education functions of the institution. Public access and informal recreational uses within the CEF are also promoted, within guidelines that protect the primacy of the research function and the character of the cultural landscape. Increased use of some of the heritage properties in the core area by government and NGO agencies with an agricultural research-related mandate is also envisioned, including a new Canadian Agricultural Policy Research Institute (CAPRI). The management guidelines are designed to ensure that individual identities do not dominate over the sense of a unified research campus.

Key Features of the Research Option:

  • Establishment of a site identity program, including consistent signage and formal gateways, to communicate its status as a national historic site and its continuing function as both the headquarters of AAFC and Canada's principle agricultural research centre
  • An expanded research campus to the east and south of the Neatby Building complex with a new area for research greenhouses and other facilities suited to current research requirements
  • A signage strategy to increase a pride of place and sense of ownership for everyone using the site, direct site users to their correct destination, reinforce the primary public routes, and knit the site together through a common language of elements and graphics consistent with the Federal Identity Program but appropriate to the Farm's status as a research centre and national historic site
  • Relocation and redesign of the entrance to the Farm from Carling Avenue, to provide improved visibility and access for the research campus
  • Rehabilitation of the landscape context of the former Dominion Observatory in keeping with historic evidence
  • Anchoring the west end of the site with the new headquarters on Baseline due to the relocation of all headquarters functions from the Sir John Carling Building
  • Relocation of all headquarters functions from the Sir John Carling Building and adjacent facilities to the new Skyline property on Baseline
  • Redevelopment of the site of the Sir John Carling Building, to serve as a place where the public and research can meet and learn from one another, with a CEF Visitor Centre and facilities for the National Collections
  • Removal of the limited access road from Prince of Wales to the Sir John Carling building parking lot, and redesign of the circulation pattern so that major public access occurs at the traffic circle, into the traditional Farm core
  • Improvements to Prince of Wales from Preston to Baseline to reconnect it to the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and reinforce its traditional parkway identity
  • Improvements to the east-west Experimental Farm Driveway, and its traffic circle at Prince of Wales Drive, to reinstate its role as the social and pedestrian spine at the core of the Farm. The Museum and research buildings along the Driveway will be encouraged to address the Driveway in keeping with historical precedent
  • Reconfiguration of the Museum campus and adjacent circulation patterns, to allow access from the north or west, if desired
  • Redevelopment of the Saunders Building for the Canadian Agricultural Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), where experts and government decision makers can meet to consider topics of critical interest regarding agriculture and food supply
  • Rehabilitation of heritage buildings north of the Experimental Farm Driveway for language training and conference facilities, and for offices for NGOs in the agriculture and agri-food sector
  • A reinvigorated public open space or 'Commons' shared by the public moving between the Museum and the Visitor Centre and by research scientists and government officials moving among CAPRI, the conference facilities, the national collections, and other buildings in the research campus
  • That AAFC consider seeking partnerships with other federal and scientific agencies to engage in research activities appropriate to the site, especially in the areas of urban forestry and urban agriculture
  • Intensification of the research values in the Arboretum on both sides of Prince of Wales, possibly through increased involvement by AAFC in developing public and private sector partnerships, including academic, curatorial, and urban forestry interests.
  • A research function related to urban/rural sustainability and ecology for the area south of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, and expanded research activities east and south of the Museum
  • Streetscape treatments that support the special landscape qualities of the Farm for all roadways around and through the site. A gateway treatment for Merivale north of Baseline is proposed to knit the Skyline site into the cultural landscape of the CEF
  • Coordination with other federal departments, other levels of government, other institutions, and the private sector to ensure compatible development of the urban perimeter adjacent to the Farm
  • Consolidation of parking areas using sustainable approaches, such as soft surfacing and orchard plantings

Recommended Option - An aerial view of the Experimental Farm’s overall site demonstration plan.

Recommended Option - Overall Site Demonstration Plan