The design challenge posed by the Wellington West Business Improvement Area (BIA) for the NORTHEAST CORNER OF WELLINGTON STREET WEST AND PARKDALE AVENUE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF HINTONBURG was to “Transform the corner from its current haphazard state into a beautiful, usable public space for the community.” This endeavor was referred to a PLACEMAKING by the community.
For the Design to be meaningful, the following contextual characteristics were considered:
• Historically, Hintonburg was a working-class neighbourhood of Ottawa with a certain edginess and grittiness in both its built forms and its inhabitants.
“Live and let live” is its motto. It has been said that “if you are looking for that sense of urbanity in Ottawa, Hintonburg is the place to be.”
• The corner of Wellington and Parkdale is busy and cramped, with a great deal of movement, both vehicular and pedestrian.
The corner is formed by the very walkable and animated Wellington Street West (east/west) and the very vehicular Parkdale Avenue (north/south), with its steady stream of cars, travelling between the Queensway and the City of Gatineau.
• The site has a ready-made audience consisting of both people sitting in their cars and pedestrians standing at the cross walk waiting for the traffic light to change colour.
Not to mention the people filling their cars with gasoline across the street.• The site is seen from street level as well as the high-rise apartments above.The design playfully scatters 10 brightly coloured letters of various sizes at the corner of Wellington and Parkdale. Some letters are upright, and some are not, akin to the toys strewn on the floor of child’s room … in disarray but mirthful.
Because it is not obvious that the letters spell the word HINTONBURG – a bit of a puzzle, the audience of people in their cars and pedestrians waiting for the traffic lights to change, are invited to participate in solving the puzzle … to become engaged with their surroundings. The children imagine, and use the letter “T” as a slide or sit in the “fort” provided by the letter “O”.
The adults, more practically minded, use the letters as seats, tables, or something to lean against… the animate interacting with the inanimate. The curious installation at the corner of Wellington and Parkdale continues to evolve from a vibrant public space into a meaningful place within the public realm with its own personality and soul.
For the citizenry of Hintonburg and Ottawa at large, there is an open invitation to pause, imagine and join in … to become a kid again …………. remember?In the end, it was the concerted effort by Wellington West BIA and Ottawa Community Housing, in consultation with Hintonburg Community Association that made this project possible..