Century Garden Park | ?m | ?s | City of Calgary | PFS Studio

Danpersand

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Hello all. I looked around here and couldn't find anything specific to Century Gardens. Would love to know how everyone feels about the redevelopment. I was hoping they would find a way to revitalize this corner, but still retain it's quirky, Brutalist charm. I was shocked and saddened with the end result of the Devonian Gardens makeover, and it seems they have gone full scorched-earth on this project as well. Sigh.

Below is a link to the plans for the park, and a few pics.

http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Construction/Century-Gardens-park-redevelopment.aspx

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Beltline_B

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I never had any problem with the park other than the large Fir trees. I felt like the trees made the park too dark and musty feeling. Kind of the same problem Olympic Plaza has with the evergreens along seventh Avenue.

I don’t have a problem with evergreens themselves, they don’t make good trees for city parks in my opinion.
 

UrbanWarrior

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I actually really like what they're doing to Century Gardens. They are preserving the vast majority of the Brutalist concrete structure, restoring the wood walkways, turning the old pond into an accessible fountain/splash area, making the upper area of the SW concrete area controlled access so people can enjoy the space without having to step over people passed out in their own puke, the walkways are being upgraded, and the number of trees is increasing, while maintaining many of the large trees. :)
 

Oddball

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Heh, this park is a rare case where the modern penchant to pave everything will result in less concrete. I feel sorry for the parkour guys though. I could get behind a city parkour park.
 

Danpersand

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I actually really like what they're doing to Century Gardens. They are preserving the vast majority of the Brutalist concrete structure, restoring the wood walkways, turning the old pond into an accessible fountain/splash area, making the upper area of the SW concrete area controlled access so people can enjoy the space without having to step over people passed out in their own puke, the walkways are being upgraded, and the number of trees is increasing, while maintaining many of the large trees. :)
Oh, it will definitely be a brighter, more welcoming place. That SW corner especially had a weird dystopian vibe after dark, and people seemed to generally avoid the park even over the lunch hour. I am thrilled the water features will survive in some form, as this is something sorely lacking in the core. Kudos to the city for preserving the Brutalist ghosts, a reminder of the Calgary that was...blemishes and all. It's all very strange. I always longed for a major overhaul of this space, and now as I stare at this giant dirt pit, I'm torn. It feels like a long-time drinking buddy has finally sobered up. A little bit sad, but better in the long run for everybody.

Also...sorry about any time you had to step over my body. ;)
 

Silence&Motion

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The park, as originally designed, seems like it would have been better suited for a university campus or an inner-city residential neighborhood rather than a downtown core. Shelter and intimacy can be good things in the right context. I could imagine this park really succeeding in Le Plateau, Montreal or even incorporated somehow into the U of C campus. But in the downtown core, office workers don't have time to engage with the whimsy of the design during the day, and it becomes unwelcoming when everyone leaves at night.
 

CBBarnett

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I like the redesign, especially the better sight lines, wider paths, more seating and the new water features. Will be a great asset.

I still feel there is a bit too much organic landscape design going on for a downtown park - curves rather than straight lines, grass for little more than the view etc. Organic designs have seemed to had the grip on Calgary park design for the past decade or two, it's a style I wished was used more sparingly. Sometimes traditional forms are the right approach - even borrow a few pages from the transportation engineers as many of our parks are major connections in the pedestrian and bicycle network.

Riverwalk is a great example of what I am referring to. It is beautiful of course, but the cycle path could have been built straighter and wider for efficiency and capacity. It also could have much better tied into downtown communities rather than almost wall them off with unnecessary flower beds and small, unusable grass patches. It's a park and a transportation corridor (one of the busiest pedestrian and cycle corridors in the city). Some designers seem to really like the top-down curvy look on their computer screens rather than how it actually needs to work from a user perspective. It's not bad, but just seems disjointed and a bit quaint given the context.

Century Park has a bit of this going on IMO. Given the location, I wouldn't have been opposed to a true urban square at Century Gardens, where mobility in all directions are maximized as the expense of curved lines and unusable grass patches. It certainly will be an improvement of course, but seems they could have done a bit more to fit it into it's very urban environment.
 
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UrbanWarrior

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I understand and agree with most of what you're saying, however, I don't see how the grassy areas are unusable. I always see people chilling on the grass in pretty much every downtown park, including CG. I have done this myself, as that is their intended use.
 

AJX

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Or borrow a few pages from European cities with straight boulevard like parkways. I've often wished the same thing, that it wouldn't hurt to have a straight promenade looking walkway or parkway. Something like you'd see in Paris or Central Park.

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I like the redesign, especially the better sight lines, wider paths, more seating and the new water features. Will be a great asset.

I still feel there is a bit too much organic landscape design going on for a downtown park - curves rather than straight lines, grass for little more than the view etc. Organic designs have seemed to had the grip on Calgary park design for the past decade or two, it's a style I wished was used more sparingly. Sometimes traditional forms are the right approach - even borrow a few pages from the transportation engineers as many of our parks are major connections in the pedestrian and bicycle network.

Riverwalk is a great example of what I am referring to. It is beautiful of course, but the cycle path could have been built straighter and wider for efficiency and capacity. It also could have much better tied into downtown communities rather than almost wall them off with unnecessary flower beds and small, unusable grass patches. It's a park and a transportation corridor (one of the busiest pedestrian and cycle corridors in the city). Some designers seem to really like the top-down curvy look on their computer screens rather than how it actually needs to work from a user perspective. It's not bad, but just seems disjointed and a bit quaint given the context.

Century Park has a bit of this going on IMO. Given the location, I wouldn't have been opposed to a true urban square at Century Gardens, where mobility in all directions are maximized as the expense of curved lines and unusable grass patches. It certainly will be an improvement of course, but seems they could have done a bit more to fit it into it's very urban environment.
 

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CBBarnett

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Or borrow a few pages from European cities with straight boulevard like parkways. I've often wished the same thing, that it wouldn't hurt to have a straight promenade looking walkway or parkway. Something like you'd see in Paris or Central Park.

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This exactly!

I feel the new Riverwalk sections, as well as the West Bow River / Eau Claire West Park design missed this mark - while achieving many other notable improvements. The lack of width/straightness has been sacrificed for small-scale quaint deviations (e.g. delta garden plan at the end of the Peace Bridge) and organic (but not usable) features like flower beds. These are all fine ideas for park features of course, but it depends on the context. The south bank of the Peace Bridge that has reopened is already congested, despite a modest width increase in the path. We could have gone bigger.

I would argue we aren't lacking in small scale, quaint park spaces almost anywhere in the city. What we seem to lack is designs that acknowledge that some areas - the inner city - are busier and more active than small scale and quaint pathway designs will accommodate. We may never be considered as great of a park city of the likes of Paris or New York, but small sections of our park system are starting to achieve the kind of congestion and activity that is more common in larger centres and should be designed to accommodate. Width, capacity and efficiency. Places that can easily handle 5, 10 or 20k+ visitors a day (as the Peace Bridge and Century Gardens currently does, with more growth expected), not a few hundred. Hundreds of seats, not a scattering of 20 chairs over a kilometre.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is our inner city parks/pathway network seems to need designs more monumental in scale: both for capacity reasons and to differentiate them from the endless suburban parks/pathways that stretch out into the burbs with basic 3m pathways full of bumps, cracks and curvy alignments. We are a big and increasingly busy urban place, we should design for it.
 

UrbanWarrior

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The part I like the most is the massive tree canopy, and then I wonder if Calgary's climate would ever be able to produce trees that provide that experience.

The answer is that it wouldn't, unfortunately. Perhaps if the trees were closer together to account for the inherent relative shortness of all tree species here?
 

Surrealplaces

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You could get something similar to that tree canopy in New York, but it would take a while.

There's the canopies in older hoods like Mount Pleasant and Crescent Heights. IIRC they were planted in the 40's. The neighborhood was built long before that, but apparently the trees weren't planted until sometime in the 40's or 50's The thing with Calgary is that it takes a while, given the shorter summers.
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These tree in NW Calgary were planted in the late 60's and are now nice tree canopies that would make for a nice park stroll. Elms are used in one of the shots, and Poplars in another.

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