Memorial Drive Landscape of Memory: Poppy Plaza
The Poppy Plaza is the first of many public spaces to be created as part of the second phase of Memorial Drive: Landscape of Memory, a City of Calgary effort led by the marc boutin architectural collaborative inc (MBAC) and Stantec Consulting. This park commemorates citizens who have served to protect our freedom and security, It marks the first major public gathering space identified in the plan for the redevelopment of Memorial Drive.
Poppy Plaza located at 1111 Memorial Dr. NW. The plaza commemorates Canada’s efforts during wartime, while at the same time offers a much needed public gathering space which helps connect people with the river’s edge. Transforming an underused open space around a busy intersection at Memorial Drive and 10th Street N.W. into a dynamic public space, the 86,100 square foot Plaza was designed an utilizes two surfaces. First, a folded wood deck made of low-maintenance Balau honours an existing heritage tree, provides seating and space for native plantings and is sheltered from the summer sun by a new grove of Aspen trees. The second surface is a weathering steel wall that navigates the sites steep grade change, protects the wood deck from winter ice flows and extends the adjacent urban neighbourhood to the river’s edge.
The vision for revitalization of a 9.5 kilometre pathway corridor parallel to Calgary’s Memorial Drive was ignited by the loss of the original cottonwood trees planted in remembrance of Canada’s sacrifices in the First World War. Poppy Plaza is the first of a series of planned nodes along a ‘Landscape of Memory’ renewal project. The project was developed to address various challenges, including connection of disparate access points into the site, access to the river’s edge, resolution of the conflict between pedestrians and commuter cyclists along the river pathway and creation of a space to accommodate large events and informal gatherings.
“The project’s goal is to revamp Memorial Drive and develop a space that commemorates Canada’s role during wartime, while offering a much needed contribution to the city’s fledgling public realm,” says Boutin.
“The main design challenges were the resolution of the complex urban design diagram, the development of a contemporary and inclusive voice for commemoration and the resolution of conflict between pedestrians and commuter cyclists,” said Boutin. “We accomplished these goals through the insertion of two folded surfaces, the first of weathering steel and the second a maintenance-free Balau wood surface.”
“An evocative project that inserts itself within a broader renewal of a historic landscape project dating back to the end of World War One. The design successfully fulfills its memorial mandate while offering public urban space that is skillfully laid out and detailed, allowing Calgary citizens to go about their daily activities within the context of social memory.” – Jury Comment/National Urban Design Awards
The existing site is characterized as a residual green space, adjacent to the intersection of Memorial Drive and 10th Street. North of the site is the Kensington neighbourhood and south of the site is the Bow River. While the site’s grade slopes steeply southward to the river, it lacks an appropriate connection to the water.
Poppy Plaza, on the bank of the Bow River, is the first of several planned sites along Memorial Drive’s Landscape of Memory. The space, commemorating Canada’s war-time efforts, combines an inviting wood surface with striking weathered steel façades to create a 24-hour, year-round public space on the doorstep from downtown Calgary to the trendy Kensington District. The design draws attention through both the dramatic weathering steel structures, and the creative use of light that illuminates both quotes honouring Canada’s military past, and the trees that pay tribute to Calgary’s lost soldiers.
The plaza offers space for Remembrance Day ceremonies and public events or private reflection amid the narratives water jet cut into the steel, back-lit structures. Steps to the river’s edge offer a chance for visitors to connect with the newly restored river’s edge. The park signifies the transformation of a marginal green space to a signature contribution to the city’s downtown and a striking memorial to Canada’s military heritage.
The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative:
Poppy Plaza is the first of a series of planned public spaces along The Memorial Drive Landscape of Memory, a 9.5 km pathway that runs parallel to Memorial Drive and is designed to honour the sacrifices of Canadians during wartime. The existing site was a residual green space adjacent to the intersection of Memorial Drive and the 10th Street Bridge, bound by the neighbourhood of Kensington to the North and the Bow River to the South.
The design was developed in response to the following challenges: the desire to connect disparate access points into the site, a lack of access to the river, the need for resolution of the conflict between pedestrians and commuter cyclists along the river pathway, the requirement for a space to accommodate large events and informal gatherings, and the desire development of an inclusive commemorative voice for the space.
The design solution hinges on two distinct and interrelated surfaces: one of wood and the other of weathering steel. Both surfaces are conceived of as transformative systems that facilitate site-specific framing and catalyze different opportunities to occupy, engage and connect.
The weathering steel surface retains the 100-year flood bank while strategically defining a diversity of relationships between the viewer, the river, and views to downtown. One key commemorative gesture is the creation of two stairways connecting the plaza to the river walk below. Here, a series of narratives are water-jet cut from the weathering steel surface and back-lit, portraying different voices that speak to the sacrifice, honour, and hope associated with periods of conflict. In addition, the descent through and along the weathering steel frames a view across the water to a pair of illuminated sentinels on the south shore of the river, a conceptual ‘space apart’ reflected in the water and speaking to the separation of loved ones during war time.
The wood surface is a topography that sutures disparate spaces and negotiates several grade changes into a singular, continuous surface. Folds within the surface provide various urban amenities, such as surfaces for seating, eating, and commemoration, including honouring an original 1922 heritage tree on site.
The formal interaction of the wood and weathering steel creates a complex experience that alternately defines and releases space and spatial associations with the project’s surroundings. There is a strong use of movement to create a shifting perspective as the viewer engages with the plaza; the commemorative elements oscillate between solidity and ephemerality, akin to the nature of memory itself.
Project name: Memorial Drive Landscape of Memory: Poppy Plaza
Location: Memorial Drive and 10th Street NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Coordinates: 51.051586, -114.085993
Type: Memorial & Museum Space, Riverside, Park, Public Space
Park Features: Wood decking, River overlook, Weathering steel walls, Benches, Bosque of trees, Walkways, Interpretive, elements, Historical significance
Project Area: 112,000 sq.ft / 10,081 sqm
Project Year: 2009-2013
Cost: $8 M
Completion Date: June 2013
Client / Owner / Developer: The City of Calgary
Landscape Architects: The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative – 100-205 9th Avenue SE, Calgary, AB, T2G 0R3 Canada
Project Team: Marc Boutin, Ron Choe, Mike DeBoer, Jerry Hacker, Sean Knight, Tony Leong, Mauricio Rosa, Nick Standeven, Kristin St. Arnault
Structural/Mechanical/Electrical/Landscape: Stantec Consulting
Contractor: Graham Construction and Engineering Inc.
Text Description: © Courtesy of The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative, The city of calgary, National Urban Design Awards, canadianarchitect, csla-aapc
Images: © The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative, Bruce Edward, flickr-Chadillaccc, flickr-Kevin Cappis, flickr-James Tworow