Precedent-setting master plan redefines new development for a city in transition
Founded on the Canadian Prairie in 1885, the city of Calgary has sprawled to one million people. In 1914, the General Hospital was built overlooking Calgary’s downtown, physically severing the Bridgeland community from the city. In 1998, it was demolished. A national competition called for the development of a sustainable community on the 37 acre site.
Bridgeland is an older neighbourhood of modest houses fronting onto First Avenue, a decaying retail street which is intersected by a pair of unique elm-canopied streets. The new plan revitalises and connects the neighbourhood to downtown, addressing the vital need for density and diversity in the inner city. The tree-lined streets extend through the re-established blocks to the new 8 acre park, built on the hospital footprint. One of these streets culminates in the park as a pedestrian stairway, the other is a promontory that memorialises the hospital.
Multi-storey housing borders the park on three sides to create an outdoor ‘room’, focusing on the downtown skyline and enhanced by a consistent building height surrounding the park. At-grade residential units provide front doors onto the street, and secondary public squares establish housing precincts with visual connections to neighbourhood icons. A new Community Centre is a ‘garden wall’ on the corner of the park and mirrors the promontory, together embracing the soccer fields. The Community Centre’s sustainable green roof provides overlook to the park, which reconnects to the bluff open space system by the removal of a peripheral street. A new perpendicular street forms a pedestrian promenade that connects the entire neighbourhood to the transit station, the Bow River, and Downtown.
A sceptical community was immersed in the design process. A series of charettes exposed them to a variety of building typologies, ultimately convincing them that if properly implemented, an appropriate density of an additional 2,500 residents would support the renaissance of the community. The plan has become a precedent for future development and revitalisation of inner city districts in Calgary.