Downtown Edmonton is starting to look good, and Edmontonians are taking notice. This post dives into the architecture and design of some of the new buildings taking shape in Downtown.
“I love the CN Tower”.
It’s not a sentiment shared by all Edmontonians, but Carol Belanger, City of Edmonton Chief Architect, has a soft spot for Downtown’s modernist buildings. It’s against these solid structures that new styles of architecture are beginning to come alive. And the juxtaposition is going to look good.
“We’re starting to see some really cool architecture,” continued Belanger, “the big buildings are really stepping up their game.” So, let’s take a tour of a few of the new buildings of Downtown…
Stanley Milner Library
Bookending Churchill Square, and opposite the once controversial City Hall, the Stanley Milner Library is set to undergo dramatic renovations that will change both the exterior and interior of the building, starting in 2017.
Soon, the exterior will be replaced with a striated facade that stretches out towards significant Downtown landmarks. The facade will break open offering glimpses from the city into active library spaces, at the same time providing striking views from the library into Downtown.
The interior of the space will also see a transformation featuring more opportunities for collaboration, learning, exploration, and quiet study. The new design will incorporate better connections to the LRT, Churchill Square to the north and Centennial Plaza on the south.
To Belanger, the design brings abstract concepts like transparency and accessibility into the everyday lives in Edmontonians. Large windows and skylights will open up the space, increasing the natural light. A large community room will overlook Churchill Square. The library is one of the most visited buildings in Downtown, and the new design celebrates the power of this community-builder.
Royal Alberta Museum
For Donna Clare, Principal at Dialog, the new museum’s design weaves together both natural and man-made characteristics of Alberta.
To illustrate this, let’s pause for a brief history lesson: If you’ve driven the streets of Edmonton on either side of the river valley, you know that at times, the grid starts to morph with the shape of the river. That’s because the roadways were built using both the English and French street grids. While the English maintained a fairly rigid north-south, east-west grid, the French formed their streets to follow the river. The new museum’s asymmetric site sits directly on the spot where the two grids converge. In fact, the new lobby is placed at the intersection of the two “lost” streets: 104 Avenue and 98 Street.
To celebrate our natural history, the architects designed the Children’s Gallery to feel like an aspen forest. The central staircase curves towards the second floor, reminiscent of mountain streams in the Rockies. Corridors run along the exterior walls so people passing by can see the curators at work. With over 2.1 million artefacts, it can be a stunning curiosity to see the curators moving ancient tapestries, fossils and ancient objects through the halls.
The cantilevered glass of Hyatt Place is already an outstanding addition to the Downtown skyline. Anchoring the soon-to-open Armature (96 Street), the hotel will bring a sense of excitement to the east end of Downtown and the Quarters. “There is nothing like it in Edmonton,” explained Belanger. The new hotel will be open for guests in the early summer.
Kelly Ramsey Building
When the original Kelly and Ramsey Buildings were destroyed by fire, the developers worked with the City of Edmonton to ensure that the historic facade is being rebuilt on the new building.
NorQuest College’s Singhmar Centre for Learning
NorQuest College’s Singhmar Centre for Learning is planned as a LEED Silver 22,500 m², four-storey building facing Capital Boulevard, flanked by 103 Avenue and 107 Street. It will feature labs, a teaching child care centre, a new library, food services, student activity space, and an Aboriginal student centre.
Here are a couple of the recent additions to the Downtown that have set a high standard for all new buildings that come after them.
Boyle Street Renaissance
The Boyle Street Renaissance Phase 1 features affordable housing units and a community centre.
Art Gallery of Alberta
And what do you think? What are some of your favourite new and old architectural gems in Downtown Edmonton?