Civitas Receives Canadian Landscape Architecture Award for Calgary Urban Park Transformation

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Denver-based urban design and landscape architecture firm Civitas has received a CSLA award in the landscape management category with W Architecture and Landscape Architecture for co-leading the transformation of St. Patrick’s Island in Calgary, Alberta. The resilient design will restore the island’s ecology while creating an active, nature-based urban park.

The proposed amphitheater and sun deck for the Civitas-designed St. Patrick’s Island project provide sweeping views of the wetland channel. (Image courtesy of Civitas/SevenG)

The proposed topographic changes bring people closer to the water while linking them visually to the downtown.

Denver-based urban design studio and landscape architecture firm Civitas Inc. has received a 2015 Regional Merit Award in the landscape management category from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) for its transformation of the 30-acre St. Patrick’s Island in Calgary, Alberta. Civitas is working in collaboration with New York-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and IBI Group of Toronto – both also named on the award – co-leading a multi-disciplinary international team for the design of this urban island park.

The visionary plan, which will return a vital downtown Calgary landscape in the scenic Bow River to active public use, also was honored in the urban design category in the 2014 AIA NY Design Awards. The St. Patrick’s Island project, slated for completion in October 2015, will “restore the island’s ecology and increase biodiversity while providing new enticements for visitors to interact in a natural public park setting,” says Civitas Project Manager Scott Jordan.

St. Patrick’s Island has experienced the literal ebb and flow of time. Historically used by buffalo and Canada’s aboriginal people as a crossing, the island eventually became a campground and then a destination for the homeless. The neglected space attracted crime and drug trades that ultimately left a decayed landscape. “It basically stopped evolving and functioning as an island,” says Jordan. Today, the island park is geographically at the center of an ambitious redevelopment strategy for the city’s downtown.

With the emergence of a new vision for the park and surrounding redevelopment efforts spearheaded by Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, W/Civitas won an initial design competition in 2011 to create an active, nature-based park on the island for residents of the growing downtown and nearby communities. “We have created a design that celebrates people being on the island,” says Jordan.

Located in a floodway, the new St. Patrick’s Island is designed as a model of resiliency. The design will restore historic channels to provide safer access to the water. Soil removed to recreate the channels will be repurposed to create a “rise” that will provide views to Calgary’s skyline, a venue for concerts and events, and an ideal slope for winter sledding. Boardwalks and designated trails will protect new wetlands and vital habitat. “The proposed topographic changes bring people closer to the water while linking them visually to the downtown,” explains Barbara Wilks of W Architecture. “This simultaneity is the new relationship between nature and cities.”

About Civitas Inc.:
With a core purpose of creating healthier cities, Civitas is an idea-based practice of urban designers, architects and landscape architects engaged in strategic planning for urban change and project design for built works. A consultancy and a design studio, Civitas advises on a wide range of strategies for re-imagining urban life and places. For more information, visit Civitas online at http://www.civitasinc.com.

Media contact: Anne McGregor Parsons, WordenGroup Public Relations, anne(at)wordenpr(dot)com, 303.777.7667

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Darla Worden
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