2017 Merit Award

St Patrick’s Island

Category: General Design

Landscape Architect:

W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLC


Project Team:

Steven Holl Architects

Charles Mayer Photography

About the Project:

The “Living Island” is envisioned as a resilient and floodable landscape in the heart of Calgary. This design builds on historic channels and landforms of the island, with a new channel, a seasonal beach and wetland where water existed as late as 1960. Otherwise, the island ecology is being restored. The channels offer safer access to the water for exploration and new wetlands provide vital habitat only accessed by boardwalk. The channel and wetland will change over time, revealing the seasonal dynamism in the river’s flow. The philosophy is uncomplicated: draw on the ecological history to restore the island ecology and increase biodiversity while providing new enticements for visitors to interact into an expanded public realm.

Project Location:

St. Patrick’s Island is at the center of an ambitious redevelopment strategy for the East Village in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This design creates both a city-wide destination and strategically located community resource. The 30-acre island sits in the center of the Bow River and at the confluence of the tributary, Elbow River and is adjacent to the East River, a 49-acre redevelopment project in downtown Calgary. Few major cities enjoy a river that is as healthy as the Bow and a district that will be as connected with its vital riverfront.

Special Factors

The diversity of the island is dramatically improved through the introduction of the seasonal wetland, the removal of most lawn areas and the re-introduction of native species. Soil removed to recreate the historic channels is re-purposed on the island to create the “rise,” a feature that offers perfect views to the skyline, a perfect slope for winter sledding and a fire pit to keep warm. The rise was placed in an open area of the island in order to retain the existing and mature Poplar trees. New features are carefully incorporated around the existing trees and all storm water from the lookout plaza and parking lot is filtered through large bio-swales. The “playmound” utilizes displaced earth and a flood protection dyke for slides and other topographic and play equipment made of natural materials. The facade of the new orientation and washroom building is made of re-purposed timber from the demolished pedestrian bridge and sports a green roof with native meadow grasses peaking over the parapet.

In addition to the re-purposed wood on the washroom building, the park utilizes locally-sourced materials such as glu-laminated timber for guardrails, the pavilion, light and sign posts. Locally produced pavers and plants were also sourced.