Designing Hope

We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the kindling of the Flame of Hope at Banting House National Historic Site this year, so I have decided to add on to my previous comments about the Flame. This entry is more concerned with the design teams of the monument and the more technical aspects that went into producing the famous structure.

It was certainly a combined effort to build the 2.1 meter tall, 15 tonne stone pillar to house the Flame.  While the lead designer of the project was volunteer Robert Geard, he had assistance from some prestigious advisers throughout the process. Members of the team that made the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery lent their own considerable experience in the general aesthetic of the tribute as well. IMG_20190718_152345829.jpg

Flame of Hope designer Robert Geard (right) guiding the installation of the monument.          Banting House NHS  

However, the Flame of Hope was not the same type of structure that they had experience with. The Eternal Flame at Arlington was fueled through gas from a propane line connected to a tank several kilometers away. It was a ground based design, similar to the French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris. In those constructions, the flame was at foot level, allowing for easier pipeline connections to the fuel source. For the Flame of Hope, however, the problem of fuel piping had a less simple solution. As the Flame was on the top of the 2.1 meter tall monument, the connection alignments had to be perfect within the granite pillar. To fail to do so had the potential for fire hazards and threatened the integrity of the monument as a whole.john-f-kennedy-eternal-flame2.jpg

The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery.                                            Photograph courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery 

To deal with this complicated problem of connections, the designer of the Flame of Hope, Robert Geard, received help from natural gas professionals. Experts from the Canadian Gas Research Institute and Union Gas Limited were able to provide significant support during the design and installation process. This team, headed by Union Gas coordinator George Prociw, was able to share their experience in maintenance and installation as the mechanism that regulates the use of fuel also controls the ignition process of the Flame, ensuring that there would never be a flare up from an overabundance of fuel. Their advice proved to be extremely useful in the weatherproofing of that mechanism as well, leading to the inclusion of electronic modules that were able to reignite the Flame in the event it goes out. With the monument facing harsh Canadian winters, that input was essential to the continuing function of this symbol in the battle against diabetes. IMG_20190718_152431278.jpg  The original mechanism of the Flame of Hope. It was finally replaced in 2014 after almost 25 years of service due to metal fatigue; a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures.                                                                                                                                          Banting House NHS

Thus through the effort of experts, volunteers and advisers, the Flame of Hope was raised to serve as an everlasting symbol to the dogged persistence of humanity, and our ingenuity in solve the problems that are set before us. Diabetes is one of these challenges and we hope that soon it too shall be overcome.


This post was written by Samuel Pitre, summer student at
Banting House NHS. Samuel is currently completing his M.A. in History at
Western University.

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