The redesign of St Patrick’s Island is the centerpiece of an ambitious redevelopment strategy for Calgary’s East Village. Charged with transforming a neglected urban island into an engaging park, we drew on the ecological history of the island for inspiration to increase its biodiversity and create a “living island.” The ‘Living Island’ provides a natural landscape infrastructure, creating both a well-located community resource and increased ecological diversity. This meant configuring new topographies to allow the water to again interact with the island in the form of two new but different channels—a stream and a wetland. These features expand the available habitat and generate a sense of place, nurture strong spiritual attachments to the island’s beauty, seek balance and harmony between constructed and natural elements, and provide opportunities for life-enriching experiences.
New amenities, including the beach and stream, a no-impact boardwalk and pedestrian passages and plazas, connect visitors with the natural dynamic processes of the river. The center of the island was restored as a bio-diverse and tranquil area of natural habitat centered on the new wetland and adjacent existing mature forest. The Rise is built from the excavated soil on a former lawn area and provides a slope for large gathering, a place to view the city, and sledding in the winter. The hardscapes are built consistently in the park with an integrated system of materials including stainless steel, concrete pavers and local laminated timbers.
By allowing the 30-acre park to interact with the seasonal flow of the river, new ecologies were opened to human exploration and a more diverse habitat was created for animals. Shared experiences link along a multi-use pathway traversing the island, connecting into Downtown Calgary and adjacent urban centers, creating unique place-making amenities with long-term resilience to the inevitable flooding of the Bow River.