A NATIONAL STUDIO PROJECT | UN PROJET NATIONAL D'ATELIERS 2021-22
University of Calgary
SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, PLANNING, AND LANDSCAPE
MLA GRADUATE PROGRAM
LAND 604 | LANDSCAPE STUDIO I
Tawab Hlimi is an assistant professor in landscape architecture and planning at the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture Planning and Landscape and a licensed landscape architect in the province of Ontario. He teaches design studios in landscape architecture and planning, and courses on green infrastructure and digital drawing. Through critical practices of teaching, research, and design, Tawab’s interests are three‐fold; firstly to render the discipline and practice of landscape architecture visible and meaningful by restoring its roots with the fine arts; secondly to render the practice of landscape architecture relevant in addressing the wicked environmental challenges of the 21st century by appropriating design methods and thinking from the fields of civil engineering and ecology; and lastly to harness the potential of emerging digital tools in visualization to augment the capacity of the human imagination.
It is not easy to reduce the linear strip of land wedged between the Bow River and the inner‐city communities of Sunnyside and Hillhurst to one particular definition. It is simultaneously a landscape of movement, a landscape of defense, and a landscape of memory. As a landscape of movement, multiple modes and tempos of movement such as walking, cycling, and driving define an integrated recreational and commuter corridor. As a landscape of defense, it is best understood in cross‐section as a fortified embankment, resisting the river’s intrusion into the city, while repelling runoff from the city into the river via stormwater outfalls, with the objective of protecting communities settled on the low‐lying floodplain. As a landscape of memory, an archipelago of symbolic trees, memorials, and public spaces along the corridor pay homage to the fallen soldiers of WWI.
In recent history, a number of critical events have challenged the forms, functions, and meanings, which presently define the Bow riverfront. In June 2013, rapidly melting snowpack in the Rocky Mountains in combination with heavy rainfall precipitated a breach of the Bow River’s embankments, catastrophically inundating the communities of Sunnyside and Downtown Calgary, and revealing the inadequacy of the river’s embankments to resist a perfect combination of snowmelt and heavy rainfall. In late 2019, public health mandates of social distancing prompted by the global COVID19 pandemic disrupted indefinitely the long held spatial separation of work and home. With decreasing commuter flows to and from downtown, and increasing social distancing requirements for people in public places, Memorial Drive, a four‐lane arterial road bounding the northern edge of the Bow riverfront was reduced spatially and functionally to a local street, surrendering two lanes to the growing traffic of socially‐distanced pedestrians and cyclists. The benefits of reduced noise and air pollution and improved connectivity between the riverfront and the community of Sunnyside mobilized a community lead movement advocating for the permanent reduction of Memorial Drive, a prospect that the City of Calgary will explore
through a formal study. Lastly, the unraveling of the COVID19 pandemic revealed the disproportionate exposure of racialized communities to the COVID19 virus, debunking the myth that “we are all in this together”, and adding fuel to the mobilization of resistance movements such as Black Lives Matter and Truth and Reconciliation. In the Western Canadian context, the harrowing discovery of the unmarked graves of hundreds of indigenous children on the grounds of former residential schools brought into the public consciousness a hidden history and suppressed memories. Pop‐up memorials of children’s shoes and orange t‐shirts emerged across the city, including Memorial Drive, bringing into question notions of reconciliation a the selective memory of a settler society represented by the monuments to the soldiers lost WWI on Memorial Drive and the Bow riverfront.
Given the creative insights which have emerged from critical disruptions, the charge of this design studio is to project the future of the Bow riverfront through the lens of reconciliation. Can the relationship between the city and the river be transformed through a new flood wall or embankment from constrictive to expansive, in order to accommodate the river’s natural processes? Can the ratio of space dedicated to motorized and non‐motorized movements along the riverfront become more equitable? Under the scenario of Memorial Drive as a local street with at‐grade crossings, do the pedestrian and cyclist bridges crossing over Memorial Drive become obsolete? How is ‘memory’ represented and experienced along this corridor? Can the ‘selective memory’ of the colonial paradigm be reconciled with the ‘suppressed memories’ of the emerging paradigm of decolonization? How can new functions and recovered meanings representative of the values of a changing society be woven into the existing forms, spaces, and aesthetic experiences of a new riverfront?
Student work will be shared at the end of the studio. Check here for upcoming dates