The Briarcliffe Heritage Conservation District (HCD) was designated in 2013 under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act.
Briarcliffe is a rare, intact, example of Modern planning and architecture. It is the first HCD in Ontario designated for its value as a mid-20th century neighbourhood.
The Briarcliffe neighbourhood was primarily built between 1961 and 1969. Its natural setting on a rocky escarpment along the Ottawa River and its experimental Modern architecture and neighbourhood design create a compelling and unique sense of place. The cultural heritage value of the neighbourhood lies in its history as a building co-operative, its association with Ottawa's postwar expansion, and its design value as an excellent example of a Modern suburb built in harmony with the natural environment.
The Briarcliffe Partnership was founded by Walter Schreier, Thaddeus Duncan, Ellen Douglas Webber, and David Yuille who purchased a 20-acre parcel of rocky and topographically challenging land in 1959 which the Township of Gloucester approved the subdivision in 1961. As part of the Partnership's vision of a residential neighbourhood in harmony with nature, the lots in Briarcliffe were deliberately sited among largely undisturbed natural features and the founding members established a restrictive covenant with design guidelines to ensure that their shared vision was implemented.
Briarcliffe is associated with the expansion of the National Capital Region in the postwar period. The post-war growth of the federal public service resulted in the development of a number of government campuses outside of the downtown core. Located near the Montreal Road campus of the National Research Council (NRC), and the headquarters of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Briarcliffe has been home to a number of NRC and CMHC employees, as well as other public sector employees and several educators. Briarcliffe is also associated with the influx of professionals (such as scientists and architects) to the capital during and after the Second World War.
Briarcliffe is an excellent example of a mid-20th century Modern neighbourhood and displays innovative concepts of site development and neighbourhood planning. The minimalist aesthetic of the Modern Movement was a 20th century reaction to the ornate styles of the 19th century and was most prevalent in Canada from the 1950s until the 1970s. The houses in Briarcliffe share characteristics typical of the Modern Movement in architecture including a simplification of form and the elimination of decoration. The neighbourhood is comprised of custom designed houses and a few designs from the CMHC Small House Scheme.
The houses in Briarcliffe have cultural heritage value as a collection of the works of leading architects of the day. Several notable Modernist architects were commissioned to design houses in Briarcliffe, including James Strutt, Matthew Stankiewicz, Paul Schoeler and founding partner and CMHC architect Walter Schreier. These architects and others in Briarcliffe shared a common Modernist vision which is reflected in the architectural character of the houses and the incorporation of the houses into the natural landscape.