The design of the Kathleen Andrew’s Transit Garage (KATG) embraces the significance of and necessity to assign a celebrated spatial role to the infrastructural image of Edmonton. The design argues for an architecture that performs at the scale of urban infrastructure while supporting more intimate conditions of the workplace, whether human or mechanical, in the servicing of buses. As such, the design mediates between these varying scales by producing a coherent image of building and landscape.
Named after Edmonton’s first female bus driver, the 50,000 m2 KATG accommodates 320 workers including bus drivers, maintenance, administration and transit security staff. It houses 300 buses, 35 maintenance bays with three undercarriage wash bays, four re-fuel bays and exterior wash bays. One level of employee parking is provided below grade.
The site is remarkable in a 21st century post-industrial sense, at the intersection of multi-modal transportation infrastructures surrounding an early 20th century industrial zone. The area housed stockyards, abattoirs and processing plants with a Canada Packers meat processing plant occupying the north end of the site. The KATG project maintains the 50-metre tall Canada Packers smokestack as the sole remaining industrial artifact from this previous use.
The KATG is a big building on a big site. The form is conceived as a technical skin of stainless steel and glass, drawn across the expansive and simply articulated building. This design strategy, a synthesis of surface and enclosed volume, weaves together the human and machine determined programmatic requirements, supporting technical, climatic, and environmental functions through a rigorous architectural identity.
This commitment to conceptual clarity is furthered through surface continuity in the vertical dimension - the corrugated cladding wraps the functional elements of the roofscape, the volumes of which are calibrated to achieve a consistent form for both roof lanterns and mechanical enclosures.
The site design achieves an integrated built environment, put to work to transform 23 acres of brownfield. The removal of 3 meters of compromised soil facilitated the provision of a parking level beneath the bus storage area. The remaining site area is an orchestrated landscape for ecological greening, microclimatic thresholds and wayfinding cues through bio-swales, pathways and a dense tree planting grid. Extensive areas of the site are covered with recycled rubber that performs as a continuous bioswale to filter and clean all site water prior to discharge into the city stormwater system. This palette, juxtaposed with the restrained use of stainless steel and glass across the building, invokes the industrial legacy of the site and of modern architecture without nostalgia for either.
The interior organization of the building is derived through a sensibility of deep respect for the skill of maintaining and driving buses. All employees arrive via a generous lower congregating area, up through a day-lit central atrium, and onwards to their respective workplaces. This spatial sequencing promotes overlap and exchange between drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers, administrators, educators and security personnel, an almost political gesture of collegiality represented through architecture.