What do you get when you combine students from a Grade 6 class with grad students studying green infrastructure at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design? You get a range of different ideas that incorporate play with ecological infrastructure to create a beautiful public space under the Fourth Avenue Flyover in Bridgeland.
“The community wanted to reclaim that space,” says Tawab Hlimi, assistant professor in EVDS who teaches green infrastructure. “It’s just sitting empty and not being used by the community and the vision is to make kind of a gateway that connects Bridgeland with downtown and the river pathway system.”
The Bridgeland Community Association brought a few ideas to the City about how to improve the dark “unsafe-feeling space,” says Jen Malzer, pedway and mobility strategist with the City of Calgary. The community also introduced the City to a couple of teachers at Bridgeland’s Langevin School who wanted to teach their Grade 6 classes about urban planning.
“The partnership just really came together in a kind of unique way to enhance this corridor,” says Malzer. “We’re really excited about outcome.”
The EVDS students met with the Grade 6 students to brainstorm ideas about how kids might play in the forlorn space under the bridge that carries thousands of vehicles downtown every day. Those ideas range from installing swings under the flyover, building rain gardens and skating rinks and putting in permanent outdoor exercise equipment.
“The ideas are so creative and so exciting and you can really see where they took inspiration from the youth and blended it a little bit with their own research and what they heard from the community,” says Malzer. “It’s the idea of grown-up play, not just kid play.”
The public had its first look at the designs at an open house April 6 in Bridgeland. People can give feedback online until April 16. “The community will select from the best ideas and there will be a final iteration that will be produced by one or two students and may be a composite of the best ideas,” says Hlimi. The transformation will start this summer. The project is part of the City’s Pedestrian Strategy which calls for working more closely with communities and partners like UCalgary.
EVDS students were excited to be a part of it, devoting a semester to working on the designs as part of the new Master of Landscape Architecture program. “The challenge for my students was how to integrate the concept of play with the concept of ecological infrastructure,” says Hlimi. “It’s really kind of merging what may seem like two very different things but that are actually quite compatible with each other — social and environmental sustainability.”
In addition, the University of Calgary will host the Walk21 Calgary conference in partnership with the City of Calgary in September 2017. A discussion of the Fourth Avenue Flyover project will be included in the program.