Projects in 12 Canadian cities receive 2014 National Urban Design Awards

Cities across Canada are seeing “renewed creativity and sensitive attention being paid to the public realm,” says the jury of the 2014 National Urban Design Awards. A dozen cities received awards: Calgary, Edmonton, Guelph, Montreal, Nanaimo, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Trois Rivières, Waterloo, Westminster and Winnipeg. The winning projects, which range from renewed brownfield sites to improved public transit, show that, in the jury’s words, “Urban design in Canada is fostering a rich and interesting shared social life for communities.”

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects are pleased to announce the 2014 National Urban Design Award Winners in the following categories:


Westminster Pier Park (Westminster BC); PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc. The park is the first phase in the city’s long-term vision to integrate the waterfront with the historic downtown core, and to reconnect people to the previously industrialized Fraser River. Formerly an industrial brownfield, the 3.84-hectare park opened in 2012 at a total cost of $23 million. Contaminated soil was removed. A new pier replaced an old pier in disrepair. There are children’s play areas, a festival lawn, plaza, sports courts and waterfront promenade. The shoreline is planted with native species beneficial to fish and wildlife and provides a food source for salmon on their way upstream during spawning seasons. — “Responds beautifully to the desire of giving new life to a derelict brownfield site”


University of Winnipeg Students‘ Association bikeLAB (Winnipeg, MB); Peter Sampson Architecture Studio Inc. The bikeLAB was developed as one node within a new multi-modal transit initiative for the campus. With a budget of $130,000, the project makes use of a pair of obsolete shipping containers to create a workshop dedicated to all things cycling. Volunteers provide training on cycling basics, maintenance and safety. A repeatable model for which funds, materials and site can be readily available is critical to the expansion of light infrastructure. The bikeLAB presents a first iteration of this model. Nearly all of the materials used were recycled and the energy required for operation is provided by solar collectors and surrounding buildings. — “This low-cost project was recognized as an example of the power of small gestures”

Collaborative Exercise 2013: An Architecture of Civility (Toronto ON); Ryerson University, Department of Architectural Science, George T. Kapelos, FRAIC, MCIP, Coordinator. The exercise challenged students to design civic amenities for Toronto’s public spaces that would encourage civility and inclusiveness, regardless of a citizen’s means or ability. It demonstrated the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in architectural education and professional practice. Design teams, consisting of 12 to 15 students from all years of the program, acted as “citizen architects” at specified sites. Graduate students acted as “community voices” pushing for the rights of citizens, including the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and taxpayers. Among the projects were bike paths, a civic exchange, discovery information hub, and speaker’s corner for political activism and community engagement. — “Incorporated student participation and community involvement to focus on the use of leftover spaces”


Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – Claire & Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art (Montreal QC); Provencher Roy + Associés. The conversion of the Erskine and American Church and the construction of the new Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art demonstrate the Museum’s commitment to contributing to the preservation of built cultural heritage while pursuing its vocation of promoting our artistic heritage, past and present. The project meets contemporary museum requirements and blends harmoniously into the existing architectural surroundings while showcasing the building’s historical connection. The endeavour’s two main construction and conservation components offer a unique opportunity to create a site with an exceptionally rich heritage and give the church renewed purpose housing the MMFA’s permanent collection of Canadian art. — “Compositionally, it is respectful of its historic neighbours while being of its time”


Blatchford Redevelopment Master Plan (Edmonton AB); Perkins + Will Canada. Winner of an international design competition, the plan repairs a 215-hectare rift in the city’s urban fabric. The team pursued the idea of “connectedness” with a focus on sustainable urban living. The plan delivers a community for 30,000 residents that includes an energy strategy to take the development beyond carbon neutral. The plan sets a new mixed-use community in the context of a challenging environment. The City Centre Airport lands form a large void in the heart of the city. Surrounded by light industrial and commercial uses, the site is further separated from residential neighbours by arterial roads, the Yellowhead Highway and a railway. — “Potentially transformative in terms of Edmonton urbanism”


Jiigew [By the Water] (Thunder Bay ON); Brook McIlroy Architects / SPMB. Located on the ends of Piers 1 and 3 on the Thunder Bay Waterfront, Jiigew [By the Water] forms a pair of sculptures 70-feet high. They act as beacons overlooking Lake Superior at the water gateway to the city. Through its shape, proportions and luminous qualities, Jiigew celebrates the history and identity of Thunder Bay by evoking shipbuilding, lightning and thunder. Each of the beacons relays a poem-story using an array of lights in Morse Code. An audio track is heard as a whisper reciting the poem in both Annishinabe and English. The choice of weathering steel for the structure refers to shipbuilding. — “Using light, sound and silhouette, each beacon creates a different pattern”

The following are recognized with Special Jury Awards:


Evergreen Brick Works (Toronto ON); DTAH Architects Ltd. The mission of Evergreen was to transform a deteriorating industrial site in Toronto’s Don Valley into an environmentally themed community landmark. A multi-disciplinary team of designers had a mandate to preserve the past and implement sustainable design. The one new building, The Centre for Green Cities, is a LEED Platinum candidate. Heritage preservation, site remediation and defining the landscape all played a significant role. The adaptive reuse of the existing buildings, interconnected by bridges and walkways, formed the basis of the revitalization. Evergreen has become a popular destination for events such as a weekly farmers’ market, children’s programming and conferences. — “Worthy of a case study – it did everything right!”


City of Nanaimo Downtown Urban Design Manual and Guidelines (Nanaimo, BC); D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism. The economy and vitality of Nanaimo’s downtown core have been eroded by decades of growth in suburban malls and sprawling residential development. The plan is part of effort to revitalize the downtown core and emerges from a desire to preserve the downtown’s historic buildings. It aims to guide development of a human-scaled pedestrian centre that can accommodate a mix of cultural and commercial uses, along with new residential development in a contempor
ary idiom. The new guidelines are meant to inspire owners of undeveloped or underdeveloped sites and to assist municipal planners in directing landowners and developers toward a coherent and vital urban form. — “Demonstrates the validity for small communities to undertake a major urban planning exercise”

Certificates of Merit are awarded in the following categories:


• Place Pierre Boucher and Platon Park (Trois Rivières QC); Urbanex division of Roche Ltd.

• Market Square (Guelph ON) ;Janet Rosenberg + Studio Inc.

• The Landscape of Memory: Poppy Plaza (Calgary AB); The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative Inc.

• Revitalization of Victoria Park Subway Station (Toronto ON); TTC (Concept Design); SGA/IBI Architects (Details Design / Project Architect); Scott Torrance Landscape Architect (Landscape, Green Roof); Brown + Storey Architects Inc. (Urban Design); Aniko Maszaros (Public Art); Toronto Transit Commission (Owner/Client)


• Ryerson Image Art Centre and School of Image Art (Toronto ON); Diamond Schmitt Architects

• 11 Division – Toronto Police Service (Toronto ON); Stantec Architecture, E.R.A. (Heritage Architecture) gh3 (Landscape Architecture)


• Central Transit Corridor – Community Building Strategy, (Region of Waterloo); Urban Strategies Inc.

• NCC Rideau Canal Skateway Chalets (Ottawa ON); CSV Architects

• Pottery Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Crossing (Toronto ON); PLANT Architect Inc.

“It’s most heartening to see the renewed creativity and sensitive attention being paid to the public realm across the country,” the award jury wrote in a statement. They noted that the projects reclaim lost spaces and create new opportunities for public gathering and enjoyment. The designs restore historic places, stitch together isolated areas and improve the experience of transit, cycling and walking. The three-member jury found across Canada “an urban architecture that is generous and extroverted, that extends its reach beyond the confines of its programs and animates the spaces around it.”

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