City honours condo concept
Mayor’s Urban Design Awards celebrate Olive by Avi Urban
When it came to the tallest skyscraper in Calgary and an innovative condo project, the competition was so fierce that the Mayor’s Urban Design Awards had to give an extra prize.
The City of Calgary commissioned an extra bronze statue in the Urban Architecture category from Canmore artist Tony Bloom so it could honour The Bow — a building that has redefined Calgary’s skyline — as well as Olive, a townhome complex by Avi Urban in The Bridges that is helping to redefine how people can live and work in one space.
This year, 11 Mayor’s Urban Design Awards were presented in a total of 10 categories at a recent ceremony at SAIT Polytechnic.
“The jury was adamant that in Urban Architecture, they would give two winners,” says David Down, a senior city architect and urban designer who runs the awards program that is held every two years.
“They liked the fact that the two winners represented two ends of the design industry. One was the Bow and the other was Olive.”
The jury appreciated Olive for being a type of architecture that isn’t yet prevalent in Calgary. It offers live/work units that involve townhomes above office space, allowing people to reside above their businesses.
“It addressed this idea about new kinds of multi-family in the inner city and they liked that a lot,” says Down.
Olive was designed by Sturgess Architecture and built by Avi Urban, the multi-family division of Homes by Avi. It was one of the first buildings in The Bridges, a city-led redevelopment of the land once occupied by the demolished General Hospital in the inner-city community of Bridgeland.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi is an admirer of the Olive development.
“I love that building. I very nearly bought a unit in there before it was done,” he says.
“The only reason I didn’t buy it was because it was slightly outside of my price range at the time — and, of course, I’m completely kicking myself. Once the building was completed, that same unit was put on the market for almost double what I could have gotten it for a year and a half earlier.”
It’s not just a great real estate deal, it’s the real deal for new ways of living and working, says Nenshi.
“It’s an extraordinary building,” he says. “The really innovative part of it is the live/ work aspect of it, as well as the actual design of the units. They’re like townhouses in a condominium complex.
“It’s very unique and I’m a huge, huge fan of it. It was very innovative for the time and I’d like to see more of it.”
The Bow, which is within eyesight of Olive, is an indisputable Calgary landmark.
“This jury felt it set a new bar for highrise office architecture in Calgary, as well as the attention to detail in the public realm and the quality of the public art,” says Down.
The jury was made up of five people — no one from the City of Calgary — including representatives from architecture, landscape architecture, media, public art, and this year, a doctor who works in public health.
The awards were launched in 2005 due to an initiative by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, which asked municipalities to choose local winners who would then compete in the National Urban Design Awards.
“I really like this program because it really showcases some of the excellent work that is going on in architecture, urban design and landscape architecture in our community,” says Nenshi. “I’m hopeful that the awards can be used in a way to engage people more in the conversation about great design.”
The city’s Municipal Development Plan talks in terms of urban design excellence, which is a rather vague term.
The award winners provide examples of what such excellence is, says Down.
Seven of the categ0ories progress to the national competition, while three categories have been added to specially honour Calgary projects: the Mawson Urban Design Award, the City Edge Development Award, and the Great City, Great Design Award.
The Mawson Urban Design Award is named for British town planner Thomas Mawson. Circa 1913, he drew up the Mawson Plan, a massive redevelopment proposal that would have seen Calgary become a Paris of the prairies, including huge boulevards.
The end of the city’s f i rst real estate boom and the advent of the First World War meant the plan was never realized, but the striving for excellence represented by such city- focused projects i s remembered i n the Mawson Award.
“For us, that’s an important award, as it speaks to the jury as what is emblematic of what is a ‘Calgary’ project,” says Down.
This year, the Lions Awaken: Relighting Centre Street Bridge won the award.
Juror Trevor Boddy, a critic and curator of architecture from Vancouver who gave the keynote speech at the awards presentation, was thrilled to see the lions take centre stage, says Down.
“He was quite taken by the fact that of the elements proposed in the Mawson Plan, really, the Centre Street Bridge was the only thing that was built according to the plan — and here we were giving it the Mawson Award,” says Down.
“It’s a really great project because of the way it highlights the architecture of the bridge. It brings new attention to one of our great historic amenities.”
The Great City, Great Design award is new this year.
“Our new city manager, Rollin Stanley, is really interested in how communities can be designed to promote healthy living and healthy lifestyles,” says Down.
“We had more submissions in this category than any other category.”
Eight of the 47 total submissions were made in the Great City, Great Design award category, which was won by the Bridgeland Riverside Community Centre designed by architect Jeremy Sturgess of Sturgess Architecture.
He was involved in creating the master plan for The Bridges community, and has designed pieces of it, including Olive and the current condo project, Steps Bridgeland.
The jury felt the centre “functioned particularly well as an understated community landmark,” says Down.
“It opens really beautifully to the park. It’s well used all the time, and it has the green roof and sustainable design aspects.”
The City Edge Development Award emphasizes to all of the building and development industry that the Mayor’s Urban Design Awards are not focused exclusively on downtown projects; instead, it’s about Calgary as a whole.
The winner in this category was the city’s Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility, which will contain about 300,000 square feet of space. It will be in the middle of a natural park with views of the mountains.
Proposed amenities include ice rinks, along with a pool, gymnasium, library, theatre, art studio and exhibition space.
“This is a neat example for how you can use public infrastructure to really set a tone for a community for the quality they expect and they deserve,” says Nenshi.
“That particular facility is going to be much loved.”
This year, the awards were held in a larger space and were free to the public. Nenshi hoped this would encourage more people to become involved.
“This is about all of the work we do to build and develop the city,” he says. “I love that design is taking the forefront, whether we’re looking at brand-new suburban developments or innercity revitalization and everything in-between.” [email protected]ALD.COM. TWITTER. COM/ CALHERALDHOMES. FACEBOOK. COM/ CALHERALDHOMES.
The Bow tower, towering at left, and the lighting of the Centre Street Bridge, in the foreground, were both honoured at this year’s award for urban design.
The Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association building was honoured at the Mayor’s Urban Design Awards.
An extra award was given at the Mayor’s Urban Design Awards so both the Olive live/work townhome complex, above, and The Bow tower could be honoured.