The National Capital Commission (NCC) of Ottawa has launched an international design contest to transform Nepean Point into a ‘21st-century green space’ (Deadline: 31 March)
The two-stage competition is open to multidisciplinary teams led by landscape architects eligible to practise in Ontario, and seeks ‘multi-sensory’ proposals to upgrade the 2.5ha promontory, which is surrounded by major institutions including the National Gallery of Canada and the Houses of Parliament.
The project aims to transform the historic green space into a new cultural hub featuring a performance space, viewing platform, contemporary public art installations and improved links to surrounding attractions. A landmark pedestrian bridge linking Nepean Point to nearby Major’s Hill Park will also be included.
According to the brief: ‘In concrete terms, the NCC would like to create a lively, 21st-century green space that is an inspiring source of pride for all Canadians and a new opportunity for visitors to enrich their experience of the capital and its landscapes.
‘This will also present an opportunity to enhance the connection between the site and its surroundings, including Major’s Hill Park, the National Gallery of Canada, the Royal Canadian mint, and the Global Centre for Pluralism, through improved pedestrian circulation.’
Nepean Point occupies a prominent hill overlooking the River Ottawa, and features a viewing terrace, an open air arena known as the Astrolabe Theatre and a statue of Samuel de Champlain who explored Ontario in the early 17th century.
The site is a short distance from several major cultural attractions including the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilisation alongside many restaurants, art galleries and boutiques.
The programme aims to rebrand Nepean Point as the heart of the Canadian capital’s cultural district and a place where visitors can discover the ‘Canadian soul, as well as Canadian symbols, values, poetry and way of life.’
The project will replace the ageing Astrolabe Theatre complex, which fails to meet accessibility standards, with a new performance space featuring an innovative design. Improved landscaping, including ‘multi-use recreational pathways’ connecting the park to nearby cultural institutions, will also delivered.
Up to four shortlisted teams will receive $50,000 CAD to participate in the competition’s second stage during which design concepts will be drawn up. Travel expenses worth $4,000 CAD for up to two team members will also be provided.
The winning team – set to be announced later this year as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations – will receive a $1 million CAD design contract.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 3pm local time (EDT) on 31 March
Senior Contract Officer
40 Elgin Street
2nd Floor Service Centre
ON K1P 1C7
Tel: 613-239-5678, ext. 5051
Jubilee Gardens case study: Q&A with West 8
The Netherlands-based practice discusses lessons learned upgrading a park overlooking the UK Houses of Parliament in London
How did your Jubilee Gardens project revitalise a prominent site overlooking the UK parliament?
West 8 renovated 1.2ha of damp and forgotten lawn in a high-profile garden set in the heart of London by considering context and the future changes of a historical rich city. West 8 envisioned the gardens would act as an additional yet integral draw-card for visitors to this prominent junction. They are a landscape to look down on from the towering heights of the London Eye and a restful place to view the Thames and the city beyond, to enjoy the performances along Queens Walk, and to just look at people passing by. The gardens nowadays attract many informal gatherings from a variety of users.
The park also features a new adventure playground which accommodates the energy of younger visitors queueing for the London Eye. West 8 designed a green landmark that serves a concentration of public and cultural institutions. A design that dignifies the site’s exposure towards the Thames in the heart of London, and its proximity to Waterloo Station, make Jubilee Gardens one of the most recognisable, high-profile, public, green landmark spaces in the world.
Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness?
One of the key issues of the design was intensity of usage. Jubilee Gardens attracts millions of visitors per annum. In the face of very heavy footfall, the gardens have withstood the pressures of users beautifully and are sustainable, efficient, coherent, flexible, and responsive to context, easy to maintain and a clear expression of the requirements of the brief. The park is laid out over the site of the former (Silver) Jubilee Gardens which was lost during the construction of the Jubilee Underground line. The new park has been provided with a monumental entrance to Belvedere Road linking to nearby Waterloo Station. North-south and east-west paths connect to Hungerford Bridge across the Thames, and to the Queens Walk along the Thames’ south bank. Slightly elevated from street level, the gently sloping topography celebrates the most wonderful view in London. The undulation, the dramatic river views, the romantic green surface, in combination with the crisp white granite edges (in reference to the English cliff coast) make the park clearly identifiable. The granite paths’ curvature and edging, interplay with the parks undulation and meander in among the traditional English park trees, and Royal Parks style flowerbeds. Its wide pathways provide ample opportunity for informal gathering and performance places during cultural events. One could argue that the London Eye, the SBC Underbelly Stage and the numerous informal street performances along Queens Walk, partly owe their success to the renovated Jubilee Gardens.
Cutty Sark Gardens case study: Q&A with OKRA
The Netherlands-based practice discusses lessons learned upgrading the public realm in historic Greenwich, London
How did your Cutty Sark Gardens project revitalise a prominent site overlooking the Old Royal Naval College UNESCO world heritage site and Canary Wharf?
The site forms an important stepping stone within the – potentially fantastic – river walk. The main goal of the project has been to regenerate the area that suffered from neglected urban edges and a poor presence. Backsides had to be transformed into active frontages, which contributed to the vibrancy of the area. Now it can play a great part in that walk along the Thames.
Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness?
To express the specific assets of the place, overlooking the vast openness of the river, we wanted the square to be open. At the same time we wanted an intimate space where people would sit and stay for a while. The idea of ‘tidal square’ provides this functional and spatial flexibility – an inviting place, which provides both intimately scaled and large-scale spaces and has an ability of adapting to larger and smaller events. The idea is to reduce and increase space. An intimate space will be created when a wet floor and fountains reduce space and create a pool where children can play.
What advice would you have to participants on designing a upgrade for Nepean Point in Ottawa?
How the buildings and surrounding open space relate to each other and whether pedestrian connections can be added are important challenges. Giving good proposals for that can add even more quality to the existing potential and fantastic views.