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Competition: Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

An open international ideas competition has been announced to rethink an abandoned waterfront quay overlooking the Red River in Winnipeg, Canada (Deadline: 24 April)

The competition seeks community-inspired proposals to reimagine the disused 0.4-hectare landing stage which was purchased by the City of Winnipeg in 1928 and occupies a prominent site within Winnipeg’s Exchange District regeneration zone.

The On the Docks call for ideas, organised by Exchange District-based designers Laurene Bachand + Aaron Pollock, aims to boost debate over the future of the waterfront plot which has been abandoned since its closure three years ago following a decline in river-based traffic.

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Paul Jordan of The Forks North Portage Partnership said: ‘Winnipeg’s riverfront is an asset. The Forks’ Go to the Waterfront is all about connecting communities to one another in meaningful ways, The Alexander Dock site is an important part of that vision and will bring people back to the waterfront to enjoy one of our most amazing amenities.’

David Pensato of Exchange District Biz said: ‘In recent years, the Exchange District’s vast potential has started to become reality. Its storefronts are teeming with activity and its streets are bustling with people— residents, even. The Alexander Docks site is a key location for the East Exchange, and bringing it to life will further revitalise what is quickly becoming a favourite Winnipeg destination.’

Winnipeg – which means ‘muddy water’ in Cree – has been an important trading centre for thousands of years and is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the West’ due to its many railway connections. It has a population of more than 660,000.

Landmarks within the city include Antoine Predock’s competition-winning Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Étienne Gaboury-designed Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge.

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Winnipeg is also home to the annual Warming Huts competition which delivers a series of winter warming huts or art installations suitable for the Manitoba city’s cold winter every year at the nearby Forks overlooking the Red River.

The latest competition aims to generate new ideas for the future of the derelict site, which could play a key role in reconnecting the Exchange District with the river. Judges include Zephyra Vun of Design Quarter Winnipeg; Mike Pagtakhan, Winnipeg counsellor for Point Douglas Ward; and Dan Lett from the Winnipeg Free Press.

The overall winner will receive a CAD $1,000 cash prize while second place will receive a $350 Exchange District gift package including a night’s stay at the nearby Mere Hotel. Third place and the people’s choice winner will each receive a $170 Exchange District food voucher.

All winning schemes will feature in an exhibition inside the Mere Hotel and Cibo Waterfront Café opening on 25 May.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is at 11:59pm local time (CST) on 24 April

Contact details

Email: info@onthedocks.org

View the competition website for more information

Bangor Waterfront case study: Q&A with Paul Rigby

The partner at FaulknerBrowns Architects discusses lessons learned remasterplanning Queen’s Parade in Bangor, Northern Ireland

Paul Rigby

Paul Rigby

Paul Rigby

How will your project revitalise the underused Queens Parade in Bangor?

Queen’s Parade is best known as a traditional seaside holiday destination, surrounded by vibrant Edwardian and Victorian features and the attractive Bangor Marina. It currently forms an important part of the town centre fabric, but its potential as a leading destination has yet to be fully realised. This latest development reimagines the town’s waterfront, proposing an imaginative, distinctive and sustainable concept that delivers a new destination, which not only supports local residents, but provides a quality environment to delight visitors throughout the year.

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Which architectural and masterplanning methods did you harness in your design?

Our proposals aim to extend the quality of the outdoor environment by adding features that support activities throughout the year and challenge the conventional ways of enjoying, exploring and viewing Bangor’s unique marine environment. Proposed leisure elements to be incorporated into the scheme include cafés, restaurants, a cinema, a winter garden and a multi-level indoor sports venue that will be home to outdoor sports enjoyed across Northern Ireland. This is to be combined with a new floating pontoon and water-sports centre in the marina where visitors can receive instruction in water activities including sailing, canoeing and paddleboarding.

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Connectivity improvements throughout the scheme will extend the existing waterside pedestrian route from the banks of Belfast Lough into the heart of the town centre while, conversely, encouraging those in the town centre to extend their visit to the waterfront. Our design aims to create spaces and places that people want to spend time in, creating an environment where memories can be formed, associations made and expectations exceeded.

What advice would you have to contest participants on rethinking Alexander Docks?

Our starting point is always to extract as much value from the context as possible. The additions that are proposed should complement and enhance the existing fabric of the area whilst diversifying the offer available and giving visitors and residents a new memorable experience. Core to the success of any regeneration project is connectivity and accessibility. It is important to deliver positive connectivity into surrounding areas to ensure the new destination’s long-term impact and sustainability.

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Bangor Waterfront by FaulknerBrowns Architects

Q&A with Laurène Bachand & Aaron Pollock

The organisers of On the Docks discuss their ambitions for the competition

Laurène Bachand & Aaron Pollock

Laurène Bachand & Aaron Pollock

Laurène Bachand & Aaron Pollock

Why are your holding a contest to rethink the future of Alexander Docks?

The meeting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers has been an important gathering place for 5,000 years. As a prairie city built within a river valley, the rivers have always been difficult to live beside. Water levels can fluctuate as much as five metres in a single season and lead to flooding and ice damage annually. For this reason, the city has for more than a century turned its back on the waterfront.

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Thirty years ago, a central railyard was removed from the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and the site was transformed into The Forks; Winnipeg’s most important and iconic public spaces, welcoming more than 5 million visitors per year. The Forks is responsible for the world’s longest skating trail and hosts the popular international Warming Huts design competition with installations by Frank Gehry, Anish Kapoor, and Antoine Predock. The success of these endeavours has shown that the public want access to the rivers while demonstrating the value of harvesting unique international ideas

Along with the central railyard, spur lines that travel along the river adjacent to the National Historic Exchange District site were removed to create Waterfront Drive neighborhood. Located within this development, the Alexander docks were also once heavily industrialised and have become a derelict site along the riverfront that is desperate for public revitalisation with an inherent connection to the river.

What is your vision for the new waterfront space?

There are significant challenges to building along Winnipeg’s riverbank, the foremost being the fluctuation of the water levels. Winnipeg also has the third coldest winters of any city in the world with a population over half a million; meaning rivers freeze upwards of 1.5 metres thick. The ice then usually wreaks havoc on the riverbanks as it melts and travels downstream in spring. With all these drastic changes, the quality of water is less than ideal. As a prairie river, it is muddy, shallow and has a fast current which all contribute to the turbidity and given name: the Red River. These conditions deter people from swimming or building any developments directly on the river’s edge. If these limitations weren’t enough, the Alexander Docks are also the site of the city aqueduct and powerlines travelling under the river. Architectural innovation will be required to create a place that engages the river and enhances the quality of life for nearby residents while overcoming environmental and site barriers.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Linked to Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in 2014, Alexander Docks remain a site of demonstration, memorial and healing for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls. The site has gained significant exposure as a symbolic place for an important conversation happening in Canada today. The competition has the potential to have national exposure and challenges designers to address cultural and political sensitivities.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

The City of Winnipeg is growing and will eventually create a project for the site.

Are there any other similar waterfront regeneration projects you have been impressed by?

We don’t want to create any preconceived notions.

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg

Alexander Docks, Winnipeg