Above the Tracks: Emergent Form

Stephen Rowe | Senior Research Studio

Marc Boutin | Faculty Supervisor



The CPR corridor both creates and reifies an urban stratification: the plan of the city is sliced in two, creating a north-south disconnect, while the existing stratification of the city in terms of verticality is further reinforced by the complete lack of connectivity contiguous to the CPR corridor. The proposed solution attempts to suture Downtown and the Beltline together at a pedestrian scale by utilizing a single-surface strategy. The result is a continuous infrastructure that spans the entirety of the corridor, creating a raised pedestrian street above the CPR tracks. A series of architectural prototypes were developed to sit adjacent to the raised street; these prototypes were then eroded by steep, pedestrian-only streets reminiscent of the tight, cobble-stoned alleys of old world Europe. By infusing the architectural typologies adjacent to these streets with both formal culture spaces (e.g. galleries, libraries) and informal culture spaces (e.g. cafés, restaurants, retail spaces), and both residential and office spaces above, a critical mass is reached to support both the culture spaces and the combined spaces of infrastructure and public space.

Three prototypes were developed further at the scale of a single block: the first, a low-rise recreational/cultural building, combines a market space and restaurant on the interior, and a recreational field on the roof surface. Crucially, both of these elements are influenced by the infrastructural surface, which permeates both the interior of the building and the roof to create an architecture that is seamlessly integrated with the public-space-infrastructure solution of the raised urban parkway. The second prototype is a mid-rise typology, which houses a 1000m2 gallery space on the ground level, accessed from Macleod Trail on the east of the block; on the second level, a series of smaller spaces are incorporated to house small businesses such as cafés and retail stores, which are accessed via a sidewalk off of the adjacent “alley”; on levels three through nine, residential units are housed. The third prototype— the high-rise—is a 14 storey structure that incorporates a library on the first and second level, with the rest comprised of office space and residential units. By spreading the library over two levels, it deprioritizes a singular entrance (something possible due to the reinvention of libraries in the digital age) to create equally prominent entrances the north side, along 9th Avenue SE and the south side, along the raised urban parkway, “Avenue 9.5”.

The integration of these three typologies with the raised urban parkway creates a mixture of infrastructure, public space, cultural space, and residences that is necessary to support both the proposed project and the city at large. At its heart, the project is about the deprioritization of the vehicular street in future development. By leaving existing vehicular connections alone, there are no disruptions—solely an augmentation and enhancement of the public sphere.