9th Avenue Parkade + Innovation Center / 5468796 Architecture + Kasian Architecture Interior Design & Planning
Manufacturers: AB Applicators Ltd., Alsa Road Construction Ltd., Atlas Anchor Systems (BC) Ltd., Burton General Contracting Ltd., CP Distributors Ltd., Caliber Coatings Ltd., Creative Door Services Ltd., Crosstown Heating and Ventilating (Calgary) Ltd., Custom Electric Ltd., Dura Stainless & Sheet Metal Mfg. Ltd., Durwest Construction Systems (Alberta) Ltd., EllisDon Construction Services Inc., Enmax Power Corporation, Ferguson Corporation, Flynn Canada, Geba Interiors Ltd., HCM Contractors Inc., Harris Rebar d/o Harris Steel ULC, Heavy Industries Theming Corp., IB Jensen Masonry Ltd.+15-15th
Johanna Hurme, Sasa Radulovic
Text description provided by the architects. The City of Calgary required a downtown parkade to free up multiple downtown lots for development. Understanding the likelihood of building’s future obsolescence, municipal officials also wanted a creative solution that would justify the expenditure now and in the future. And so, the city asked 5468796 Architecture in collaboration with Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning to design a 510-stall parkade that could be easily converted into an office, light industrial, or residential building. The project site – adjacent to the new Calgary Library, Calgary City Hall, and the Studio Bell, (the National Music Center) – included an unbuildable easement for an underground light rail tunnel, cutting through the middle of the project site and representing what the city determined as a 20% loss in the buildable area.
The design team’s solution is a building in the form of an elliptical helix, bridging the easement, thereby recapturing much of the lost land value. Vehicles enter at grade, directly over the easement. The ellipse creates a large, street-width interior courtyard and 12-meter shallow floor plates that in time will allow daylight and ventilation to pervade the interiors from multiple directions. The floor plates ascend on a 1-2% gradual slope to avoid the need for vehicular ramps that would eventually need to be removed. Ceiling heights of 4-meters, clear spans, and universal load-bearing capacity contribute to a variety of gradual or wholesale changes with low-cost ramifications.
The vehicular entrance, with clearances that will allow for maintenance of the underground tunnel, is flanked by pedestrian and bicycle entrances and activities such as a basketball court, activating the frontage along 9th Avenue SE and framing the southern edge of the developing East Village neighborhood. Spherical bollards, colored concrete patterns on the floor, and a traffic mirror ceiling ensure that the central courtyard is a lively and vibrant place with a distinctive and memorable aesthetic, enriched by additional public amenities including a café patio, and outdoor exhibition space.
The structure is enveloped in a distinctive guard shroud, strategically around the perimeter to provide pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular access. The members of the shroud hold a fine-grained mesh that acts as a pedestrian guardrail today, while easily and inexpensively accommodating conversion into residential/commercial suite balconies with no additional work required.
Halfway into the design process, the client solidified a partnership with Platform, an entrepreneurial hub for the city’s burgeoning innovation community. This was the first test of the adaptable design – requiring conversion of the plan into an open and flexible office space that can be easily modified for use by individuals and small and large groups, occupying the space on an hourly, daily, monthly, or yearly basis. The design team proposed that the Platform occupy the first two levels of the building to animate the street frontage and created a suspended light-framed vehicular ramp cutting through the central airspace, to remove the vehicular circuit from within the structure and offer an unexpected user experience . This ramp can be easily removed later if vehicular access is no longer needed.
Inside, they removed portions of the second floor and created a “pitch stage” which acts as the entrance, the connection between the two levels, and the nexus of the space that encourages both organized and impromptu meetings. The succeeding six levels comprise 280,000 square feet of parking, with light-washed, pedestrian-forward routes, and elevated views in all directions. Clear, simple, and single-direction circulation is explained with distinctive wayfinding — also created by the architects as an extension of the building design.
In its next life, the parkade can be converted partially or in entirety, gradually or partially, and to one or more uses. The shallow slope provides a ‘flat’ floor within acceptable tolerances for class B or C office or light industrial space. The imperceptibly shallow spiral creates an ‘infinite’ floor plate, allowing for great flexibility in the future. Residential conversions can be achieved with a surface topping material.