You can only wonder if Edmonton is trying to keep pace with Calgary. Or maybe surpass it altogether. As the two Alberta cities both make efforts to give their cities design and sustainability prominence on the world stage, new projects highlight Alberta’s future.
While Calgary has unveiled a bevy of individual undertakings, the City of Edmonton has chosen Perkins + Will’s Vancouver, B.C., office to develop a master plan for a complete redevelopment of the City Centre (when in Canada, spell like a Canadian) Airport lands. Of course, this isn’t just a run-of-the-mill plan. Nope, Edmonton wants the community designed for about 30,000 residents to focus on sustainability, transit and families to gain worldwide attention.
About a year ago, the city narrowed the 33 firms bidding on the planning contract down to five big names: Perkins + Will, Vancouver, B.C.; Sweco International AB, Stockholm, Sweden; KCAP Architects & Planners, Rotterdam, Netherlands; BNIM, Kansas City; and Foster & Partners, London.
The worldwide competition landed on a homegrown firm and Simon Farbrother, Edmonton city manager, says the entire aim for the prominent downtown area includes making the development “world-leading ecologically, economically and socially.”
Likely Perkins + Will’s reputation as a North American leader in sustainable building — complete with one of the largest stable of green buildings in North America — fits with Edmonton’s goal of making a Canadian-centric mark on the design landscape.
Dubbed “Connect-i-city,” the plan touts its desire to ensure the new community has a strong connectivity to nature, history, economic opportunities and adjacent communities. The 533-acre community revolves around the redevelopment of four main spokes: the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s research and innovation center; the Kingsway Mall; a new hospital; and the light rail line.
The infrastructure aims for carbon-neutral, using biomass and geothermal energy sources to attain the goal. Designers hope to create excess energy and sell that to neighboring buildings. Along with that, Edmonton hopes to trim water consumption and limit waste.
But don’t expect all the sustainable features to merge into the built spaces. Perkins + Will draws in landscape architect Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg of Vancouver to help create a destination park and a variety of smaller neighborhood spaces, considering over half the land will turn into green space.
Let’s hope this isn’t all just grand planning. It can be easy to make things look pretty in press releases and presentations. After all, renderings are perfect. But there’s plenty of work in front of the city and Perkins + Will if they want to realize their potential. To help get there, the public will step in. As the city and the architect iron out the contract, expect the public to have its say too. For about a year, stakeholders and citizens get to take part in the process of molding the initial concepts into a master plan before construction gets going in 2014.
You can also view the winning team’s concepts and video online at: www.edmonton.ca/ccr.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter @tdnewcomb