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Legacy installation by artist Charlynne Lafontaine

Roger Neilson House
Ottawa, Ontario
Completed 2020
Services: comprehensive interior design, project administration through construction, art consulting

“The room gets more and more magical every time I am in it. I am amazed by the transformation. It’s simply extraordinary and would not be possible without your vision.”

Megan Wright, Executive Director

Roger Neilson House provides comprehensive palliative and respite care services for children, youth and their families living with a progressive life-limiting illness. The vision of Roger Neilson House is to “enrich the quality of lives, no matter how short”. 


Over the years since its opening in 2006, the playroom at Roger Neilson House had become worn. In 2019, Carlyle Design Associates was approached to undertake its re-design. The challenge was to create a space for play and fun for children of all ages and abilities and, at the same time, sensitively accommodate a new legacy installation honouring the lives of children who have died at the house – to create a place of peace and reflection.


Taking advantage of the two-storey volume wrapped in windows, we imagined how it could feel to be in a treehouse or under a canopy of green rustling leaves. The generating design ideas followed: to include a living tree – nature in the room, literally – to wrap the space in wood and texture and to develop a “landscape in the sky” of floating cloud-like lights and ethereal projections. Working with MCLD Lighting Designers, scenes were designed for day and night use and to bathe the space in quiet, immersive projections of light and shadows, patterns and colour.


Updated with acoustic wood panels to attenuate its echoey sound quality, the room is complete with a “ground landscape” of textured flooring materials, built-in benches, floor cushions, storage for play materials, two special swings, a writeable magnetic glass wall, and varied furniture including an adjustable height gathering table – picnics under the tree anyone? It is designed for access and comfort for children in beds and wheelchairs, for siblings and parents, and for all kinds of activities organized by the creative recreation therapists.


Engaging with families and staff, a thoughtful process led to the commissioning of Ottawa glass artist Charlynne Lafontaine to create a special legacy installation. Charlynne made and suspended a cascade of three-dimensional glass stars, each exquisite, each unique, and all glowing and sparkling in the changing lighting. This beautiful metaphorical installation honours the Roger Neilson House community and the memories of the children who have died.


Design and Construction Team Partners:

MCLD Lighting Design

Charlynne Lafontaine, Artist

Horticultural Management Services

McKee Engineering

Cleland Jardine Engineering

Justin Chambers Construction


KBZ Construction

See Roger Neilson House playroom video.


Photographs: nohands and Anne Carlyle

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