Creating an anchor to the urban development of Edmonton, Canada, the collaboration of architects Group2 Architecture Engineering Ltd. and Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will created a harmonious synthesis with the site, its natural landscape and the needs of the community with their Meadows Community Recreation Centre & Edmonton Public Library. Their project is to begin construction in January of 2011. More images and architect’s description after the break.
A New Language for Community
The warmth of communal life beneath the grandeur of the western sky. The gentle roll of a vast prairie plain reaching towards the horizon. The organic, patch-work structure of the dominion grid.
These images and inspirations come together to inform an innovative plan for a new recreation centre and library in Edmonton, Alberta. Situated at the edge of an expanding suburban arrangement in Southeast Edmonton, the Meadows Community Recreation Centre and Edmonton Public Library confronts the pivotal question of how to mediate the intrinsic needs of developing communities while seeking a new, sustainable vernacular that considers a regenerative and harmonious balance in society’s ongoing partnership with its natural surroundings. The design intent for the project has evolved out of the need to address three primary concerns: the creation of an architectural strategy that will support the programmatic elements in their use and operation over many decades, the creation of a strong sense of place that will build the community within a vibrant public realm, and the integration of architecture and landscape into a highly sustainable built environment.
The resulting synthesis is an investigation of community expressed through varying functions and defined by distinct forms in thoughtful relation to one another. Forms that draw upon the rolling terrain read against the prairie sky; that echo the natural inflections of the landscape, giving rise to an architectural exploration of the building as topography. It harkens a gathered settlement of activities reflecting their natural context through an undulating roof-scape and resonating a clear connection beneath the blanket of a big sky. Where opportunities for clerestory glazing and the provision of daylight to the interior distil from a simple, yet robust gesture. Where modern activities requiring modern infrastructure informs an imaginative arrangement of systems, of technology, of programming, of material and site that work inseparably in a sustainable, holistic fabric.
Stewarded by a regional, prairie geography and a keen sense of year-round interaction within it, the building components tie together in an architectural expression that is cohesive and dynamic. In taking cues from a latent topographic and geographic history, and from an original culture of sustainable human development, the Meadows Community Recreation Centre and Edmonton Public Library delivers a considered, powerful heart to anchor a community in search of a template and an inspirational direction towards a vibrant future.
On a relatively flat, featureless tract of land at the margins of urban development in South East Edmonton, the Meadows Community Recreation Centre and Edmonton Public Library (MCRCEPL) services the needs of a community of ethnically diverse, predominantly younger families anticipating 60% population growth over the next 20 years. Defined by significant roadways to the south and east, by low-density residential to both the west and beyond a utility corridor to the north, it offers significant pedestrian and open space connections to the existing and anticipated urban fabric.
Confronting the challenge inherent in the creation of a pedestrian realm within an auto-centric pattern of urban development, the scheme harnesses a pragmatic engagement between indoor and outdoor activity and the direction of a more sustainable geography to manifest a meaningful integration of architecture and public landscape spaces. This integration of site and building embraces a community master plan that proposes two new high schools beyond the property’s north and south boundaries, adjacent future commercial and residential development, and augmented public transit, laying the groundwork for their linkage. The resulting creation of a sense of scale and a pleasure of procession through connections adorned year-round with activity will invite and sustain public use, giving the wider community a vibrant core from which to direct its future development.
Architecture Inspired by the Landscape
The Dominion Grid is evoked as an organizational theme to create a variegated quilt-work of recreation and culture to bring order and a variety of scales to the site. Designed to be seen in the round, this disposition of public gathering places, outdoor recreation areas, parking zones and pedestrian routes on the site places the building at the convergence of many approaches. The massing of the building supports the reading of four ribbons of undulating roof plane that by shifting in plan relative to one another create defined squares of open space.
These open spaces support outdoor programming and cultural activities as well as acting as defined and sheltered entry courts. The layering of the four bands of roof form creates a topographical impression when seen obliquely with alternating peaks and valleys superimposed in a long perspective view. This sturdy nod to the monumental character of the prairie landscape ties the facility to its place and the traditions of large scale agrarian structures and the agrarian compound, which enables a collective identity to unify distinct patterns of use and sheltering a series of micro climates that will support outdoor use over a longer season.
In recognizing the unique context of its location and utilizing the mandate of its sprawling, activity-based programming, MCRCEPL exemplifies a rare neighbourliness for a building its size. Enhancing, engaging and celebrating the street, the block, the building, and the city, with year-round amenities, the landscape and architecture, constantly reinforces such use. It provides a dynamic composition when seen from a distance and when seen from a moving vehicle, as well as an enriching the experience when sheltered beneath its great roof.
Inside, Outside, Year-round: Sustained and Sustainable Activity
The design invests heavily in dynamic civic outdoor spaces that form a dialogue with the activities housed by its interior programming; together they comprise an integral part of the organizational strategy for recreational and cultural opportunities.
Twin, NHL-sized ice-pads with 700 total spectator seating, a two-level fitness area complete with 200m track and multipurpose gymnasium, an aquatic center with 8-lane competition-sized, therapy and leisure pools, a 15,000 ft2 public library, two-levels of multipurpose community rooms, and various support and administrative spaces form a robust interior program. Yet paired with external program spaces such as the function-flexible East and West entrance plazas, a skating loop, culture court, spray park, a recreational outdoor basketball court, amidst other playgrounds, the immensity is softened, scales humanized and uses further diversified. This relationship is representative of how the building’s innovations in programming and sustainable design strategies are likewise symbiotic.
Framing and activating public space with a series of defined landscape areas that support a human scale and encourage congregation is an essential component of the design. These outdoor spaces complement adjacent interior uses but also have additional purpose. Their flexibility makes them strategic tools in a larger plan for sustainability and regeneration. Diverse, indigenous vegetation combines with sensitive grading to manage on-site storm water; while various tree species populate the landscaping to manage temperature and comfort for activity in all climates. Large bio-swales (slews) at the eastern edge of the property are a highly visible application, while subtle landscape design promotes pedestrian-friendly circulation that foster connection within a safe, secure, and attractive human-scaled environment.
Transparency between indoor and outdoor not only deploys the use of natural light in concert with natural materials to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, it maintains a visual link stretching to the residential neighbourhoods and bus stops beyond the property line. Both the site and building components are arranged to capitalize on synergies and minimize conflicts between programs, in order to create relationships that reinforce ideas of civic interaction and healthy community recreation.
Achitects: Group2 Architecture Engineering Ltd. & Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will Location: Edmonton, Canada Client: City of Edmonton Projected Completion: 2013 Structural Engineering: Group2 Architecture Engineering Ltd. & Halcrow Yolles Mechanical/Electrical/Civil Engineering: Williams Engineering Canada Inc. Pool Consultant: Water Technology Inc. Landscape Architect: Carlyle & Associates Irrigation Consultant: Ion Irrigation Recreation Operations Consultant: John Barry Cost Consultant: Cuthbert Smith Consulting Partnership Project Area: 23,257 m2 Photographs: Courtesy of Group2 Architecture Engineering Ltd. & Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will