Site and Context: The design strategies developed for the site build on the significant natural attributes of the immediate context while addressing several significant problems and missed opportunities that existed within the park. The following design initiatives were developed to address these issues:
1. Reinstatement and reinforcement of a clear and intuitive hierarchy of vehicular circulation by redirecting through-traffic away from the parking circulation system. This strategy not only relieves congestion and parking problems but has also created a safer environment for pedestrians by establishing a clear understanding of the traffic movements around them.
2. Intuitive way-finding throughout the site has been enhanced by providing more direct sightlines between primary destinations and decision points.
3. Pedestrian and bicycle circulation has been enhanced by creating new linkages and reinforcing existing ones with surrounding networks, such as the trails within the urban forest and the greenway at 20th Avenue.
4. Security of the outdoor spaces has been enhanced as a result of the more intuitive way-finding and reinforced circulation linkages, as well as through the use of additional security lighting and greater visual surveillance from the building itself. Unlike the existing facility, the new addition promotes visual access and a sense of ownership of the edges of the urban forest and the interstitial spaces between.
5. A new entry plaza has been created adjacent to the lobby which acts as a natural extension and plays host to a number of public functions and celebrations.
Landscape Concept: The Landscape Concept strengthens the orientation of the expanded facility to the larger community and natural environment. Connections to the greenway, bike and pedestrian pathways, parking, and the Urban Forest have been reinforced in the vicinity of the building. The forest environment has been retained and brought back around the sports and arts areas of the building. The Entry Plaza takes on a distinctive character, with arts display windows. An arts plaza has been created adjacent to the studio spaces and in close proximity to the urban forest. This space has been designed to accommodate a temporary outdoor kiln and other outdoor arts projects, as well as being an access point for materials unloading.
Spatial Relationships and Building Organization: The design team undertook a rigorous analysis of programmatic and functional constraints and tested different approaches with more than 14 different conceptual options. These options attempted to provide a logical response to topography, orientation, construction principals, and context while effectively addressing the programmatic requirements of the Arts and Fitness groups.
The initial response was to organize the program elements in an east-west direction as evenly as possible over either two or three floors to the north of the existing facility. The strategy here was to provide a maximum outlook to the existing forest to the north of the site, providing excellent views without excessive solar heat gain. These early schemes also attempted to optimize cut and fill operations.
Through an interactive process with user groups it was clear that the programmatic requirements dictated that all arts activities should be on the same level with prominent access to the lobby from the visual arts/multipurpose space, while maintaining direct access to the outdoors from the pottery studio.
In order to create a successful and inviting facility, it was also clear that the vibrant and energetic activities such as cardio and weight training needed prominent visual access from the lobby as well as to and from the entry plaza and car parking areas. This visual surveillance from the early morning to late at night is a key CPTED principal that was considered critical to the design.
The preferred solution organizes the majority of the program areas on a single level at grade. The fitness studio, which does not require direct visual access from the lobby or parking areas, was located on the lower level with an outlook to the urban forest. Access to this space is via a light filled double-height space that facilitates a clear visual connection between the parking areas, through the lobby to the urban forest beyond. This double-height space is also indented to accommodate a future staircase to provide a more direct connection between the lobby and the other lower level spaces in the existing facility.
The orientation of this proposal was initially thought to contradict all logical passive design principals by orienting the addition in a north-south direction. Careful consideration and analysis proved this not to be the case. The largely single-story building is also far more economical to construct than the earlier 2-or 3-story schemes, as well as proving to be far more efficient in circulation. This has allowed a greater allocation of the budget to other passive energy minimization strategies such as deeper overhangs for solar shading, insulation, and so on. This orientation also creates a far more transparent building which promotes a stronger visual connection with the forest from both within the facility itself and from the car parking areas and primary site circulation systems. This obviously provides a far more effective strategy for crime prevention and site safety.
Architectural Form and Character: The existing facility had a very ‘busy’ architectural expression with many materials and different roof angles and massing elements. Rather than attempt to compete with this expression, the new addition is ‘quiet’ and simple in its presentation. It attempts to pay respect to the existing building in a similar way one might add a modern addition to an historic landmark. That is, to draw a clear and distinct departure from the original expression so as to maintain a clarity and legibility about what came first. This legibility is further articulated by the glazed double-height volume which provides space between the two buildings, allowing each other to breath. It also provides a fantastic opportunity for vibrant and stimulating programming.
Materials: The material pallet is integral with the structural and construction systems employed in the expansion, while maintaining a dialogue between the new and the existing as mentioned above. The pallet is a simple and restrained use of architectural concrete, wood, metal, and glass. The use of these materials has been carefully considered to ensure ongoing maintenance and durability issues are addressed. The materials were also drawn from local sources where possible and employ environmentally sustainable production processes.
Public Art: The public art strategy for the project involved the relocation of a significant Susan Point artwork titled “Frogs” to the new lobby, providing significantly greater prominence for the very influential First Nations artist. The entry plaza also plays host to a large 3D public art piece titled “Ribbon” by Ruth Beer and Charlotte Wall. The piece is a “… Metaphor for physical movement and creative endeavors …” and reinforces the social and cultural relationship between the arts and fitness programs in this facility and the community as a whole. The artists worked extensively with the design team to ensure the piece contributed to the vitality and functionality of the plaza and could be enjoyed by all generations in a variety of ways.