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Resilient cities are those that are built to adapt, in particular, their urban and architectural landscape, if not for an entirely certain, vision of the future. Structures have to be designed with some acumen of “future-proofing” in mind, where say, a museum could be transformed into a multi-level workplace, some eight decades after. A city’s built vocabulary, especially the infrastructural and transit-oriented, might in the foreseeable future, have a tendency to be marked obsolete, reducing the requirement for conventional spaces for parking and vehicles. How can these buildings, from bus stations to parking lots and terminals, be then designed today, to be converted for alternative use(s) in the future?
The city of Calgary in Canada displays an illustrious attempt with a parking facility designed for the future - the pill-shaped and concrete bodied 9th Avenue Parkade + Innovation Centre, built with future adaptive reuse at its heart. What gives it conspicuousness at first glance and lends to an interesting streetscape is the porous metal “shroud” swathing it, created with over 1,000 aluminium pipes hung vertically, which can be taken off in the future to be reused and recycled. At the street level, the pipes angle slightly upwards, giving the "guard shroud" a skirt-like wave at its footing, contrasting the scale and personality of the building to feel friendlier, and not too imposing. Currently, housing 510 parking spaces and two floors dedicated to a local start-up, the cement grey parkade also hosts on its ground level a basketball court, a café, and an exhibition space.
With a project value of $80M, the multifaceted, seven-story structure solves the city's requirement of a downtown parkade, freeing up multiple lots for development currently. In the far chance of the building becoming obsolete, the municipal officials implored a creative, sustainable, public building that would justify its expenditure now, and in the future, and be able to adapt itself to more uses than its current one. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and the Calgary Parking Authority (the clients), tasked Canada-based 5468796 Architecture and Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning, to build a 510-stall parking facility that could be easily converted into an office, light industrial or residential building, designing it essentially to be more than just a parking garage.
The Canadian architects relay that the project’s site, resting adjacent to the new Calgary Library, Calgary City Hall and the Studio Bell, (the National Music Centre), comprising an “unbuildable” easement for an underground light rail tunnel, which cuts through the site’s centre, and represents what the city determined was a 20 per cent loss in the buildable area. The solution? The 9th Avenue Parkade + Innovation Centre was equipped with a form of an elliptical helix, bridging the easement, and in doing so, recapturing a significant amount of the lost land value.
The vehicles enter at grade, directly over the concrete architecture’s easement. The ellipse also creates a street-wide interior courtyard and 12-metre shallow floor plates, permitting daylight and ventilation to pervade the interiors from multiple directions. This was also considered a critical feature for when the structure would be put to renewed use. The architects share that the floor slab itself is designed as a continuously sloping ramp - the floor plates ascend on a one-two per cent gradual slope to avoid the need for vehicular ramps that would require eventual removal in the future. The sustainable architecture is also equipped with four-metre high ceiling heights, clear spans, and universal load-bearing capacity, supporting a myriad of imperceptible, or substantial changes with low-cost ramifications.
The vehicle entrance is fitted with clearances that allow for maintenance of the underground tunnel, and is flanked by pedestrian and bicycle entrances as well, along with activities such as a basketball court or a skateboarding path. These help activate the frontage along 9th Avenue SE, apart from framing the southern edge of the developing East Village neighbourhood.
"Spherical bollards, coloured concrete patterns under foot, and a traffic mirror ceiling ensure the central courtyard is a lively and vibrant place with a distinctive and memorable aesthetic, enriched by additional public amenities including a cafe patio and an outdoor exhibition space,” shares the design team.
The 9th Avenue Parkade + Innovation Centre is swathed in a distinctive guard shroud which is cleverly raised around the perimeter to offer easy pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular access within the public space. “The members of the shroud hold a fine-grained mesh that acts as a pedestrian guardrail today, while easily and inexpensively accommodating conversion into residential/ commercial suite balconies with no additional work required,” they continue.
The client, halfway into the design process, cemented a partnership with Platform, an entrepreneurial hub for the city’s burgeoning innovation community. This essayed the first test of the adaptable design, requiring conversion of the plan into an open and flexible office space that can be easily modified for use by individuals and small and large groups, and occupying the space on an hourly, daily, monthly, or yearly basis. 5468796 Architecture and Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning suggested that Platform occupy the first two levels of the structure, to animate and give more dimension to the street frontage. The vehicular circuit was removed from within the building by suspending a light-framed vehicular ramp slicing through the central courtyard architecture. The ramp also offers drivers an unexpected user experience, and can be easily removed later once and if, vehicular access is no longer required.
The interior design for Platform’s new home was imagined as a dynamic space ripe with opportunities for work and collaborative potential. Its 4,500 sqm, relatively raw and generic area is also conceived for adaptive reuse in the future, and to be appropriated by users when needed, “even for light industrial use”.
A pitch stage connects the two levels, cutting through the second floor, and linking the principal entrance with both floors, encouraging both planned and impromptu meetings within the Canadian architecture. “The space is designed to enable evolution over time. An 'Infrastructure Frame’ hangs overhead but within reach, suspended from the ceiling to a datum at 2400mm above the floor, to facilitate easy connections and reconfigurations, thereby providing ultimate flexibility for any layout,” they say. Generic pods varying in openness rest beneath this frame, from fully open to close. Staff, tenants and guests can access power from overhead, and arrange the portable lights and mobile furniture to meet their personal or group requirements.
The floors above include 26,012.85 sqm of parking, with light-washed, pedestrian-forward routes, and elevated views in all directions. Clear, simple, and single-direction circulation is explained with distinctive wayfinding – created by the architects as an extension of the building design.
In its next life, the parkade can be converted partially or entirely, gradually or expeditiously, and to one or more uses. The shallow slope provides a ‘flat’ floor within acceptable tolerances for class B or C office design or light industrial space. The imperceptibly shallow spiral creates an 'infinite' floor plate, allowing for great flexibility in the future. Residential conversions can be achieved with a surface topping material.
"Beyond providing the necessary urban infrastructure to serve the city, as well as an overarching design intention to see the structure's use transform for the needs of the future, the design of the 9th Avenue Parkade and Innovation Centre contributes to the urban fabric of the City of Calgary in a distinct way. Engaging local photographers, car enthusiasts, and public appreciation within a key cultural neighbourhood, the project continues the district's reputation for strong design excellence," the architects relay.
Since the opening of the parkade portion of the project, its functional aesthetic has been making regular appearances as a defining backdrop for Calgarians. It actively contributes to the public realm and to the design conversation of our cities – that conventional typologies can evolve beyond the accepted standard to provide delightful, inspiring experiences and spaces. The success of the project is the result of a diverse design and client team demanding more of the project brief and developing innovative, business-conscious solutions in order to integrate a long-term, iconic design into Calgary's urban identity,” the architects conclude.
Name: 9th Avenue Parkade + Innovation Centre
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Area: 26,477.36 sqm Parkade + 4,645.15 sqm Innovation Centre
Year of completion: 2022
Client: Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and Calgary Parking Authority
Architect: 5468796 Architecture and Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning (Kasian Team Leaders: Joanne Sparkes, Katherine Robinson; 5468796 Team Leaders: Johanna Hurme, Sasa Radulovic)
Mechanical + Electrical: Smith + Andersen
Civil: Aplin Martin
Landscape Architect: Scatliff Miller Murray
Accessibility: Level Playing Field
Shroud: Heavy Industries
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