Inspired by the landscape for this gateway mixed-use development in Airdrie, Alberta

All Canadian Properties Inc.

Year Completed

2018-2019

Client

All Canadian Properties Inc.

Location

Airdrie, Alberta

Size

12 Acres

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Bringing people into Airdrie

The Balgray Development Area, located at the Southern outskirts of Airdrie, just west of the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, is a mixed-use master plan that incorporates residential, office, and commercial spaces that will contribute to the overall vitality of the new neighborhood. All Canadian Properties Inc. wanted to create an entrance to the neighborhood structure plan and looked to our Lifescape™ studio to materialize a strong sense of place to encourage engagement and public gathering. We developed a conceptual master plan, The Gateway, that will serve as the entrance into the development area.

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Configuring open space into place

We were faced with a greenfield development opportunity that required us to look closely at the land to understand our limitations and direction. Our challenge was to transform an open space into a defined place. The Gateway was to be a destination point that offered users a genuine sense of community, encouraged gathering and togetherness, and attracted people off the main highway. From early in the project, connectivity, adjacencies, pedestrian movement, and accommodating car parking emerged as the main drivers of the project.

We wanted to create a place where we could coexist with the natural beauty of Airdrie, and the Gateway plan achieved that. It blurs the boundaries between nature and urban development”

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Judy MacDougall

Principal

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Understanding our surroundings and history

Our design began with an in-depth analysis of the area, its history, and the regional vernacular that we could incorporate into the project. The shed typology, the sky and ground connection, and the coulee landform emerged as contextual elements we could adapt into our design.

The Grange symbolizes the meeting point on any farm, a landmark amongst the vast expanse of flat land that serves as the catalyst of future developments as buildings/storage spaces are attached to it. We proposed two Grange buildings strategically located on the East and West sides of the development that will provide farm to table market space for local vendors and serve as a beacon of activity.

A coulee is a gully or ravine that is known to be a biodiverse habitat with a microclimate distinct from its surroundings. Coulees feed Nose Creek as it flows south through Airdrie and into Calgary, crossing urban settings, agricultural land, and industrial areas of heavy development.

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Envisioning active streetscapes and meeting points

We used the coulee as the starting point of our design, and a symbol of our dedication to integrating the development with its natural surroundings. We focused on a diverse mix of program, strategically orienting buildings, and circulation pathways to slow movement through the site. Our design created active streets that overlapped and integrated into the natural landscape that we weaved through the entire property.

A vibrant streetscape incorporates the needs of vehicular and pedestrian traffic with equal precedence. The streetscape emphasizes ambling, exploration, socializing and casual interactions and is supported by design elements such as clear visual connections, vegetation, lighting, site furniture, signage and landscaping.

In keeping with our inspiration for the site, we implemented a narrow plot of densely vegetated ‘Coulee’ which runs through the median of the district’s central boulevard. This landscaped feature is a point of interest for visitors and acts as a symbol of the relationship between a vibrant suburban development and natural environment which defines the area.

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Adding experiential design to the planning process

We completed The Gateway master plan as an addition to the formal plan for development completed by B&A Planning. We helped to create a vision for the area by bringing the beauty of its surroundings into the project. The Gateway is the entrance into the development and will create an image and expression of the site as it develops around it. Through our Lifescape™ approach, we created a conceptual master plan that showed the possibility of creating a place from a blank slate that couldn’t be anywhere else.

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