Embracing both community and culture.
This new development has taken every measure to respect the community, its history and its culture, by incorporating feedback from the community, and the City of Calgary. Along with valued input from locals, we’ve brought an expert team of architects, urban planners, land use developers and designers together to create an engaging, safe and vibrant community.
The following describe the considerations we have made during the planning phase to create a best-in-class development for all.
During the design process, careful consideration was given to how the development fit within the unique place that is Chinatown. Elements such as street character, connection to the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, pedestrian movement, site access, and urban typology in Chinatown helped to inform our design to ensure that valued elements are preserved or enhanced. It’s all about making sure Chinatown still feels like Chinatown.
The development not only serves as a gateway to the community, but it also acts as a transitional space from the downtown core into the neighbourhood. This development helps to create a strong edge to Chinatown, enhancing the identity of the neighborhood while providing additional connections into the community through numerous through-block connections.
Shadow studies demonstrate the shading impact of the buildings on the surrounding area. As shown by the red outlines and grey shaded areas, much of the shadow cast by this development will fall into area that are already shaded by existing buildings. No new shadow is being cast on the shadow protected areas of Sien Lok Park or the Bow River pathway.
In Calgary’s Chinatown as well as Chinatowns internationally, there are a number of unique characteristics that help to define them. These include pedestrian oriented fine grain commercial spaces; diversity of tenants, signage, and products for sale; historical layering of development which creates a unique and porous urban fabric; and density, both in terms of physical environment but also activity and use of spaces. These layered characteristics allow for every Chinatown to develop its own unique urban character.
The architecture connects the traditional with the modern and pays homage to elements found in Chinese architecture. A motif of vertical and horizontal rectangles draws inspiration from the intricate geometric wood lattices, found in windows, doors, and balustrades of traditional China. Detailing of the podium draws from a rich history of masonry techniques, which are used to create texture, opacity, and variation in the façade.
One of the main distinguishing features of any Chinatown is the dominance of small commercial retail units at ground level. In this development, uniquely scaled internal commercial alleyways have been carved through the podium to maximize commercial space and retail activity. Providing freedom for tenants to adorn the façade of their units as they see fit creates the opportunity for the density of signage and advertisement synonymous with Chinatown.
Residential entrances, while unique and identifiable, are less pronounced to place more focus on the retail units. The lines between interior corridors and exterior alleyways has been blurred to emphasize the porosity within Chinatown. This allows for views deep into the site as well as unique views within buildings to create a sense of curiosity and wonder for passers-by and residents alike.
Within the block, the building scale transitions from the more vehicle intensive 3rd Avenue SW down to a smaller more pedestrian focused scale on 2nd Avenue SW. That means the development seeks to extend the typical small-scale retail typology to create a strong connection between the heart of Chinatown and the Chinese Cultural Center.
While part of the focus of this development is about providing a range of sizes of retail units at ground level, it also provides a variety of residential units to support these tenants and provide living options for all.
To enhance safety and comfort, an emphasis has been made to encourage retail, hotel and residential activity throughout the day and night. This will be done by providing a mix of commercial options which will be in use at different times throughout the day and by providing entrance locations for the residential towers, hotel and retail units that both face the street as well as inwards, connecting residents with the internal alleys.
A variety of residential units and their proximity to commercial uses, allows for more than just commercial activity to take place – rather, it helps create a strong sense of community that revolves around retail activity and celebrates street culture.
All entrances to the site are provided with an accessible route to enhance connectivity to residential and retail spaces. The development is resilient through design, as the grade is raised above flood elevation levels, protecting both residents and businesses. There is also bench seating stepping down to the street, the grade difference becomes a feature by emphasizing the street theatre.
There are a number of elements that make this development unique.
• The internal alleyways of the development are designed to create a sense of curiosity for passers-by.
• Integration of public art or water features create a unique sense of place for the development.
• The plaza space opens opportunities for gathering informally as well as for programming of special events, such as street festivals or night markets.
• While the alleyway is a shared space for vehicular and pedestrian access, paving materials will be used thoughtfully to promote a high quality pedestrian realm and calm vehicle traffic to improve safety.
The development does not attempt to recreate “Chinatown architecture” but provides a framework for the community to inhabit and populate spaces inspired by elements of historical Chinese architecture. This allows the development to build its own cultural legacy by creating an aesthetic that is authored by the community.