September 22, 2014

The Representation of Canadian Law In Art and Architecture

David DesBaillets, University of Quebec, Montreal (UQAM), Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, has published Representations of Canadian Justice: The Iconography and Symbolism of the Supreme Court of Canada. Here is the abstract.

The goal of this paper would be to bridge the world of artistic and architectural representations of the law, primarily in the form of the constitutional court house, and the legal cultures and values that inspire their design. I will proceed by undertaking a comprehensive research of the Supreme Court of Canada, including its history, esthetics, architectural and design innovations, personal input of the architects, social and historical contexts, as well as some of the legal and constitutional concepts that they embody. The assumption of my hypothesis being constitutional court houses, with their often impressive artistic details and inscribed legal maxims, seem to possess a quasi-spiritual significance, being an extension of what has become in many societies, especially developed liberal democracies with strong rule-of-law traditions, the secular approximation of a religious institution and, thus, transform the courts into a kind of temple of law. However, the challenge of creating a courthouse, especially the Supreme Court, that reflects the legal traditions and social norms (the former often being in conflict with the latter) as well as the ever evolving aspirations of a dynamic and highly diverse, pluralistic society such as Canada’s is ,in many respects, an impossible one, and it remains an open question whether the image that the court conveys to the visitor, be they layperson or legal official, is ,as Gournay & Vanlaethem state in their essay found in The Supreme Court of Canada and Its Justices 1875-2000: A Commemorative Book , the most “eloquent three dimensional representation of the role the Supreme Court has assumed in the life of the nation.”
The full text is not available from SSRN. 

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