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Capilano Library

A Three-Peaked Hat

Patkau Architects | Group2

Capilano Library
By Luca Maria Francesco Fabris -

The first thing that comes to mind when we think of Canada is Nature with a capital “N”. We identify this enormous country with vast stretches of natural vegetation, there since time began, cyclical uncontaminated beauty in accordance with the harmonious rhythms born of a natural equilibrium.

Patkau Architects have once again put to the test their ability to create new relationships between a built fabric and what remains of this primordial natural environment lying dormant and unrecognized in complex urban areas largely devoid of any human scale.

The location this time is Edmonton, capital of the province of Alberta, a city of over one million inhabitants distributed along the North Saskatchewan River. Typical of watercourses meandering across extensive low lands, North Saskatchewan describes enormous loops as it collects the waters of myriad small tributaries, which over the centuries eroded the fertile soil, creating short shallow rocky ravines, typical of a riparian prairie ecosystem. Posing a hindrance to urban growth and speculation, however, these geomorphological formations were often eliminated, covered over or diverted through pipes or, when this was too costly or laborious, simply cut off from their upstream water source. The result was a series of orphaned ravines that became anomalous tracts within the rigidly square grids characteristic of the forward march of North American cities. The last 30 years have, however, seen a movement to protect surviving orphaned ravines. One example is the green area abutting the east side of the new Capilano Library. The building stands as a shield between an orderly but nondescript array of uninteresting houses and the orphaned ravine hidden within dense foliage, testimony to a time when this area was still wild and untamed. Both a barrier but also an osmotic membrane, this public service facility invites visitors to enter, meditate and also become part of Nature.

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