University of Calgary

MARC BOUTIN ON MEMORIAL DRIVE: A LANDSCAPE OF MEMORY

Submitted by jwalla on Thu, 2013/07/11 - 11:23am.

Marc Boutin, and his firm the marc boutin architectural collaborative, are interested in developing Calgary’s public realm as a socially and culturally relevant landscape. A number of recent interdisciplinary design projects have explored this interest, including the First Street Underpass, winner of a 2012 Canadian Architect Award, Calgary Soldiers Memorial, and the Memorial Pathway, winner of a 2012 RAIC Mayor’s Urban Design Award.  Another such project is the Poppy Plaza, winner of a 2010 Canadian Architect Award.

The idea behind Memorial Drive was conceived in the 1920’s as a means of honouring the fallen soldiers of the First World War, and to that end, a tree was planted for every human life lost.  Building on this history, the Landscape of Memory is a 9.5 km stretch of parkway spanning between Edworthy Park in the west and Princes Island in the east along Memorial Drive, designed to re-commemorate the heroics of and sacrifices made by Calgarians during conflicts abroad. A recent project from MBAC, the Poppy Plaza, done in conjunction with Stantec, is the major node along the Landscape of Memory.

The Poppy Plaza addresses both context and commemoration in two ways. The first is through the use of a single material surface in plan and a single material surface in section to consolidate public space, and the second is through the use of light to evoke an emotive experience tuned to memorialization.

A single weathering steel surface is used to define, bridge and celebrate the existing sectional qualities of the site as a transitional medium from an urban context along Memorial Drive into an introspective place along the river.  The bridging is achieved through two cuts through the weathering steel, framing the passage to the water’s edge and animating this transition through water-jet cut narratives that offer inclusive perspectives into war-time experiences.  A second single surface, that of a topographic wood plane, integrates and sutures the disparate points of access and desire lines within the site into a single, legible, and interactive public space.  Within the topographic wood surface, manipulations of the surface provide seating possibilities that are in turn sheltered and defined by the new bosque of trees within the plaza. This new bosque, of a type of tree that is similar to the original commemorative trees, are illuminated and provide night animation in the plaza.

Another lighting strategy involves the creation of two illuminated sentinels located on the South bank of the river, framed by the descent through the cuts in the weathering steel.  The sentinels evoke a sense of connection with distant places or loved ones, sentiments that are so powerful in war-time. 

Marc Boutin is an Associate Professor of Architecture with the Facutly of Environmental Design. His research interests include architectural design, environmental stewardship, urban design, cultural lanscapes and modern architectural history. To view Boutin's faculty profile, click here.

To view more EVDS faculty research, click here.