St. Patrick's Island: A Biodiverse Haven in Calgary

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Posted by Rebecca Lowery     February 10, 2016    
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St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada

In 2015, Brooklyn-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture reinvented St. Patrick's Island, a 30-acre island in Calgary's Bow River, transforming it into biodiverse haven that forms a new vital center to the thriving mixed-use Rivers District and East Village. Based on a community master plan to create a direct water experience set in a regional attraction, this park acts as a catalyst for change.

St. Patrick's, nearly 100 years old, had been in a period of long decline. This project reversed decades of neglect and now provides multiple ways for area residents to connect with nature. In bringing this island back to dynamic life, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture was able to orchestrate a deft balance between human activity and the natural rhythms of landscape that will maintain its harmony year-round.

A carefully planned mix of activity balances restoration of the natural operations of the island and river with human activity throughout the seasons. Restoring the indigenous plant palette and seasonal wetlands has encouraged birds, insects, and mammals to return to their native habitat. Two new water channels bring the river back into the park: a new shallow channel and beach carved from a former lawn, transforms to a skating area in Calgary's cold winter, while a new wetland habitat with elevated walkway system - part of a network of bicycle and pedestrian pathways - provides areas for ecological observation while supporting the island's natural life cycles.

The soil removed from these excavations creates a downtown viewing hill, which can also be used for festivals and movies. Picnic areas, play areas, and a multi-use plaza for festivals or markets are carefully set in the existing landscape, preserving the iconic trees. By carving new channels with views to the downtown for human access and restoring forested areas with limited access, the island is all about creating lasting and sustainable waterfront experiences in an urban landscape for maximum sustainability, showing how the city and nature can be set together beautifully and harmoniously.

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St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada
St. Patrick's Island designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Calgary, AB, Canada

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