March 8, 2019
In recognition of International Women’s Day, we sat down to chat with our Associate, Senior Architect Meghan Larway following a construction tour of the much-anticipated YW Hub. As part of an all-women design team, Meghan sheds light on the impact this project will have for the women of Calgary, her approach on the design, and what this project means to her personally as a woman in architecture.
Q: Before we dive into some of the questions, tell us how the YW tour event went?
Meghan Larway: It was great! We had a strong attendance of about 30 people from different industries—consultants, designers, project managers, contractors, and other industry professionals. It was great to see the diversity among the attendees as well as their interest in learning more about the YW and the important work that they do.
Q: Any highlights from the event?
ML: I think getting to showcase the truly integrated nature of the project and how vital teamwork has been to its success. We gave attendees an overview of the project, talked about our design drivers, and discussed how we worked as an integrated team. It was also great to have Heather Elliot, Building Envelope Lead from Entuitive, provide her perspective on the performance of the YW Hub and Darren McGuire, our Site Superintendent, on its constructability. It was an eye-opener for attendees to learn about the different services the YW provides to women and the community. The real highlight of the tour, though, was the interest in the central courtyard, which is a key element of the YW Hub and the heart of the project.
Q: What makes the central courtyard the focal point of this project?
ML: The YW Hub is situated in a busy urban area—the site is bordered by major vehicular thoroughfare as well as an active portion of the CP rail to the east. There are tall commercial and low-density residential buildings surrounding the site as well. The nature of the project is one of dualities—public and private, open and secure, amongst others. With all the activity happening in and around Inglewood, there was a need to design a quiet space for women living in the Hub to relax, decompress, or spend an intimate moment with their families. The central courtyard does just that—it acts as an oasis in the middle of a bustling urban area.
Q: Let’s talk about the design drivers. It’s safe to say that safety is top of mind for the new Hub, but what other design drivers were developed during the early design stages?
ML: Several key players were involved in the development of the design drivers—the YW Executive team, our external consultants, focus groups at the YW organization, and even the community. This external and internal engagement helped establish the six design drivers that would be front and centre throughout the duration of the project: well-being, connected, inclusive, beacon, comfortable, and safe. Every decision we made was measured up against these drivers, whether it was reviewing the physical orientation of the site, finalizing the budget, or selecting furniture and finishes, and all the way down to the construction schedule. They became so embedded within the project and represent the holistic vision of the project share by the entire team.
Q: How did the design drivers influence the exterior and interior design?
ML: I believe it was Georgine Ulmer, Chair of the Project Oversight Committee and Board Member who said something that stood out to us early on in the project: “The building only exists to keep the rain off the work that we do.” That message stuck with our group and it’s what drove our approach to designing from the inside-out. We all worked effortlessly to provide a high-quality facility dedicated to delivering the best possible service to women and their families. This meant developing a holistic understanding of project influences, including the importance of trauma-informed design and creating an environment that supports healing and growth for both women living at the YW and community members accessing their services.
Q: The YW was included early in the design process. Is there anything that stands out for you when working with them?
ML: Not only were they involved and deeply committed in the visioning process, they maintained their involvement throughout the project—even during construction—and quite frankly we welcomed their participation! We invited them to all our team meetings and ensured they had the most up-to-date information on their project for their own tours.
I also believe getting and keeping our clients and consultants engaged and excited about the project is a key aspect to our management style—we welcome and value their input! It helps maintain the overarching vision and allows us to draw from our collective insights to make sure we’re all aligned with where the project is going. We also want our consultants involved from start to finish—their perspective helps us anticipate challenges before they even become a challenge.
Q: If there’s one take away from this project—whether a lesson learned or new approach to delivering a sensitive facility—what would that be?
ML: The importance of an integrated team approach. There’s a genuine environment of inclusivity and equality created for every consultant and stakeholder. Even through we were the Prime Consultant, we instilled the mentality of a true integrated design team and process to ensure the Hub was completely successfully and not just for the short term, but for long-term viability. And I can tell you that this approach has paid off—we’ve received some great feedback from both the YW and consultants on how they truly felt that the success of this project was a result of the work of each member working together.
The YW Hub Facility is slated for completion in Spring 2019. Don’t forget to follow our social media channels for more updates and news!