Eau Claire Development

Calgary, Alberta 

Photo Credit: Marc Boutin Archietct

CASE STUDY

Initial Research by: Desiree Theriault

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2017

 

 

Project: Eau Claire Plaza Redevelopment 

Type of Urban StrategyWater

Type of ProjectPlaza / Public Square 

LocationCalgary, Alberta 

Date Designed/Planned: 2008

Construction Completed:  Ongoing

Designer:  LandPlan Associates Ltd., Marc Boutin Architects

 

Marc Boutin Associates and LandPlan Associates realized the importance of the Eau Claire Plaza as it situates itself directly in an important node of the city of Calgary. Currently, this site is being fragmented from the rest of the city resulting in a disjointed area that doesn’t provide pedestrians, cyclists, and motorized vehicles the connection between significant areas (Canadian Architect, 2006).

 

The solution is to create an urban bridge through a plaza that provides the citizens of Calgary with a space to gather and redirect their flow from the Prince’s Island Park, the Bow River or the urban core. Integrating leftover space into a cohesive character through lighting, greening, and urban artifacts provides the area with a new sense of place that engages the public. Strategizing to occupy the space, the designers proposed to create a dynamic public space that will be utilized throughout the four seasons by opening up the area and connecting it to the major destinations it surrounds. These elements will create a connected urban core that defines the water’s edge and provides Calgarians with a more interconnected urban fabric. 

(Marc Boutin, 2017)

CONTEXT


The Eau Claire Plaza is located in the northern heart of Downtown Calgary along the Bow River and just across from the Prince Island Park. The plaza was originally created from a collection of leftover spaces along the Bow River to create a quick adjacent public space to the Eau Claire Market in the 1980s. Since then, the Plaza has undergone little to no re-development, creating a space that lacks an identity and sense of place. In 2017, the Eau Claire Plaza is considered one of the most desirable public spaces in downtown Calgary (CSLA, 2017).

Throughout history, the vitality of the public space has been overrun by the priority of the Eau Claire Markets. This lack of support created an underutilized space in one of the most important locations of Calgary: its heart (Marc Boutin, 2017).

In 2008, the Eau Claire Plaza Redevelopment proposal was brought forward by design firms LandPlan Associates and Marc Boutin Architects – both of which recognized the importance of resurrecting the plaza and creating a vibrant, attractive, and connected public space. The redevelopment would allow for the Plaza to become a legible, identifiable and vibrant civic space – providing a new bridge between the urban core of downtown and the river pathway and Prince’s Island (CSLA, 2017).




SITE ANALYSIS


The Eau Claire Plaza is bounded by the Bow River Pathway, the Bow River, the Eau Claire Market and the Prince Island Park – and is found in the centre of Calgary’s downtown core. The Plaza provides stunning views of the Prince’s Island Park and a glimpse of the river, attracting visitors to explore the urban realm. Considering the northwest central location of the site, the space provides a strong visual connection to important civic spaces and elements of Calgary’s urban framework and provides access to sunlight. The Eau Claire Plaza provides a bridge to these areas, acting as an important beacon to the visitors it attracts (Marc Boutin, 2017).




PROJECT BACKGROUND AND HISTORY


In the 1980s, the Eau Claire Market took over the north intersect of Calgary’s downtown, the Bow River, Bow River pathway and Prince Island’s Park. While the Market thrived for a few decades, the adjacent public space became the Eau Claire Plaza – a necessity for the growing popularity of the markets. The Plaza creation was formed out of fragmented green spaces and empty lots creating a space that was not only disjointed to the Eau Claire Markets and from the rest of the urban core. but also lacked a sense of identity and unity. Today, the Eau Claire area suffers because of its rapid expansion throughout the 80s, resulting in a space that has become deserted, lacks a sense of place and a recognizable character (Marc Boutin, 2017).

The proposal for the Eau Claire Plaza is meant to be the first phase in reinvigorating the Eau Claire Area. The redevelopment plan proposed by LandPlan Associates and Marc Boutin Architects aims to take the fragmented plaza and create a functioning urban connector to the Bow River, Prince Island and urban core. The necessary connection between landscape, water, and urbanity creates a platform that manifests unique opportunities for development, sense of place, and social interactions (Marc Boutin, 2017).

The proposal would provide visitors from the Bow River pathway, the Prince’s Island Park and the Calgary downtown a new flow towards relaxation, recreational culture, people watching, socialising and reflecting. The new Eau Claire Plaza aimed to be a strategic planning tool to bridge the gap between the urban core and the city’s edge and bring people towards a critical node of the city (CSLA, 2017).




GOAL OF THE PROJECT


The primary goal of the Eau Claire Plaza is to serve as an urban connector to the Bow River, Prince’s Island and downtown core. By creating this connection, the Eau Claire area will become a social area that accommodates visitors for multiple types of recreational activities and eases commuter mobility.




DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS


Throughout the design and development, Marc Boutin Associates and LandPlan Associates looked at bringing together the site’s surrounding context and elements. Since the site has witnessed fragmentation throughout the years and has been comprised of disjointed left-over spaces, it was important for the designers to create a plan that involved stitching together these spaces into a cohesive, legible, and rational public plaza (Canadian Architect, 2006).

The initial phases of the project look at integrating these fragmented elements and forming an engaging, dynamic and open public space that remains utilized throughout the four seasons. This big challenge required the designers to think of the plaza as an open area that attracts visitors from its varied connector bridges (Marc Boutin, 2017). Additionally, a simple yet identifiable public infrastructure was proposed into the space to create a continuous podium that changes throughout the seasons, accommodating live music, festivals, gatherings, ice skating, recreational sports, activities, and more (Canadian Architect, 2006).

Currently (in 2017), the design proposal is being adopted by the City of Calgary and will be brought forward with the Eau Claire redevelopment plan that looks to revitalize the entire area (Marc Boutin, 2017).




ROLE OF DESIGNERS


The main role of the designers was to address the issues of fragmentation along the water’s edge and the city’s northern core. It was essential to ensure that the site could become a nodal point that bridges together visitors through Calgary’s Downtown, the Bow River and Prince’s Island Park. Additionally, the design proposal needed to provide the citizens of Calgary a space that is accessible throughout all seasons, allowing the city to occupy a space that is rarely used. This maintains the vitality of the urban fabric and provides a more cohesive, legible, and dynamic urban network (Canadian Architect, 2006).




CITATIONS


CSLA. "Eau Claire Plaza Redevelopment | CSLA." Csla-aapc.ca. n.d. Web. 19 Jun. 2017. http://www.csla-aapc.ca/awards-atlas/eau-claire-plaza-redevelopment Marc Boutin Associates. "MBAC." The-mbac.ca. 28 May 2015. Web. 19 Jun. 2017. http://www.the-mbac.ca/#/portfolio/public-realm/eau-claire-plaza-redevelopment\\ Canadian Architect. "Downtown Calgary welcomes new Eau Claire Plaza - Canadian Architect." Canadian Architect. 16 May 2006. Web. 19 Jun. 2017. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/architecture/downtown-calgary-welcomes-new-eau-claire-plaza/1000052319/ City of Calgary. "The City of Calgary - Eau Claire Public Realm Plan." Ca. n.d. Web. 23 Jun. 2017. http://www.calgary.ca/PDA/pd/Pages/Current-studies-and-ongoing-activities/Eau-Claire-Public-Realm-Plan.aspx




PROGRAMMED ELEMENTS


The Eau Claire Plaza redevelopment includes a multitude of features – particularly in the adjacent park. Such features include:

Eau Claire Market

Wading pool/spray park

Playground

Washrooms

Water Fountains

Amphitheatre

Pay Parking

(City of Calgary, 2017)




PROJECT IMPACT


The Eau Claire Plaza Redevelopment is still in a proposal phase. It is estimated that construction will begin in 2018. However, the goals of the project aim to make the plaza a vital node of Calgary’s urban core.




FUNDING


The proposal is funded by the City of Calgary and the Eau Claire Market Land Owner under the Eau Claire Public Realm Plan. The plan aims to revitalize Eau Claire into a lively, vibrant, and identifiable public realm (City of Calgary, 2017).




THE CHALLENGE


One of the issues that face the City of Calgary is defining the downtown edge and the urban corridor towards the Bow River pathway and Prince’s Island. The fragmentation that occurred throughout the 1980s has created a plaza that doesn’t allow for a sense of place. Without a sense of place, the space becomes deserted creating an abandoned public realm. To reinvigorate the Eau Claire area, a crucial element is establishing identity and creating a conceptual bridge between the urban core, the Bow River and Prince’s Island Park. This proposal would respond to the issue of fragmentation that faces the area of Eau Claire, and will provide density to the public realm throughout the four seasons (Marc Boutin, 2017).




GENESIS OF PROJECT


Marc Boutin Associates and LandPlan Associates realized the importance of the Eau Claire Plaza as it situates itself directly in an important node of the city of Calgary. Currently, this site is being fragmented from the rest of the city resulting in a disjointed area that doesn’t provide pedestrians, cyclists, and motorized vehicles the necessary connection between significant areas (Canadian Architect, 2006).

The solution is to create an urban bridge through a plaza that provides the citizens of Calgary with a space to gather and redirect their flow from the Prince’s Island Park, the Bow River or the urban core. Integrating leftover space into a cohesive character through the use of lighting, greening, and urban artifacts provides the area with a new sense of place that engages the public. The designers proposed to create a dynamic public space that will be utilized throughout the four seasons by opening up the area and connecting it to the major destinations it surrounds. These elements will create a connected urban core that defines the water’s edge and provides Calgarians with a more interconnected urban fabric (Marc Boutin, 2017).





 

EDITOR

 

Samantha Miller

Nicole Brekelmans

Zoe Goldman

Desiree Theriault

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