Project Overview. The Whitemud Equine Centre consists of 48 acres of land for equine activities including lesson programs for children and adults, therapeutic programs designed for persons with disabilities, and equestrian events. The new building consists of an indoor riding arena, spectator seating, stables, storage rooms, a classroom, and public washrooms. The facility is regularly used by children and riders using wheelchairs and is designed to extend principles of barrier-free accessibility to a building type that would not normally include them.
Context. Prominently situated in Edmonton’s River Valley park system, the site operated as a farmstead until it transitioned into public space, resulting in a setting that is unique for being both pastoral and urban. The site has a rustic charm and a serene agrarian atmosphere, yet it now sits within the developed city. A major arterial road runs along the south of the site, while a multi-use trail along the river bounds the north edge.
Description. The project brought an uncommon program and site, deserving of a unique architectural proposal. The design organizes the public spaces and stables as distinct volumes framing the central riding arena. The more public spaces are positioned facing the commuter road, while the stable spaces are located adjacent to the existing path and paddocks. The central arena requires minimum height clearances for riding events. In order to reduce the perceived scale of the overall structure, the massing has been broken into two distinct volumes which are separately articulated through both massing and materials. Befitting the unique site, the building design also seeks to situate itself between urban and rural. Traditional agrarian buildings often exhibit a simple approach to the exterior design, with an emphasis on utility, low maintenance materials.
The current design continues in this tradition, using contemporary building techniques. A multiwall polycarbonate panel is used at the arena clerestory that permits controlled daylight into space. In the winter the clerestory sunlight will passively contribute to heating the arena space. For summer months, automated operable windows on the north clerestory glazing will provide passive cooling to supplement mechanical airflow. After dark, the diffuse illumination of upper volume will signal activity within to the commuters passing by. Corrugated metal paneling is used in varying orientations (with east and west elevations configured in a low-sloping chevron pattern), referencing the internal cross-bracing and alluding to the diagonal framing and sheathing that provided bracing in historic wood barn structures.