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By Aileen Duncan & Sarania Dabee
On a Friday night you may be strolling through the ByWard Market, observing a lively ambience and picturesque scenery. If you continue walking past St. Patrick Street, the roads become silent and bare. The transition is abrupt—what happened to the colourful dynamic of the ByWard market, visible just moments ago? Why has the neighbourhood been separated from its historical context?
Lowertown was the subject of a four-month studio at Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism. Under the supervision of Roger Connah, a group of about twenty second-year students completed an in-depth study of the neighbourhood and proposed four big ideas to revitalize the area. These ideas were presented to officials at the City of Ottawa in December 2017, but the students had a desire to share the ideas further.
On April 9th 2018, the Carleton students presented the four conceptual projects at a meeting of the Lowertown Community Association. The response from community members was overwhelmingly positive, and the ideas were seen as creating the conditions for a cohesive neighbourhood. The proposals are presented below.
A good design begins with an understanding of the problems. In building a better neighbourhood, what are we trying to solve?
A study of the area reveals that Lowertown is divided along King Edward Ave, which has permitted the highway to extend into a neighbourhood. This effectively splits the neighbourhood in two, divided by six lanes of traffic. The space belongs to vehicles, not to people, and the difficulty of access has led to an oversight of the neighbourhood.
The class found identified a number of priority issues:
- the irregular transportation
- the long wait at the pedestrian crossings on king Edward Ave
- the empty parking lots, which appear threatening at night
- the melancholy social housing, lacking maintenance
- the lack of a unique sense of place
Students were concerned that there is a lack of official vision for Lowertown’s future. Where are the game-changing urban ideas? Despite its central location and historic importance, Lowertown is somewhat off-the-beaten-path. Most investment is by private developers, and we seldom see community-friendly revitalization initiatives.
The Pitch: Four big ideas for Lowertown
These designs are neither finished nor ready to implement. They are to help push the limits of what is considered possible in Lowertown. They are meant to be a beginning of a conversation.
1. The Prado
The Ottawa “Prado” is a boardwalk and programmable space to be built in the median of King Edward Ave. By re-purposing two of the six traffic lanes, a pedestrian-friendly area would be created, connecting Rideau Street with the edges of the Rideau River. Regular intersections would be provided, to create better access for both people and cars attempting to cross the road. The promenade could be used for cross-country skiing during the winter months. A video rendering of the design can be seen below.
Concept by Catherine Dela Cruz, Celeste Correia, Jaron Kasiban, Anissa Alami Merrouni, Madelaine Snelgrove, Nadisha Wanniarachchige.
2. Gateway Bridge
Traffic on King Edward is a problem. One way to enable safe crossing closer would be to build a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. While this bridge could be placed anywhere along King Edward, a location close to the entrance of Route 5 leading into Gatineau would provide a visual reference that the highway has ended and the neighbourhood of Lowertown has begun. This would have the effect of lowering the speed of traffic, which would have positive benefits for storefronts and residences along the road. The Bridge will become a symbol and a gateway, similar to the arch in Chinatown.
Concept by Ramon Renderos, Sam Waigango, Razi Sasikaran, Sarania Dabee.
3. Riverside Boardwalk
Stretching along the edges of Bordeleau Park, a riverside boardwalk is proposed to enhance the waterfront experience. The boardwalk itself is supplemented by multiple points of interest, and interesting design can be built into the deck. It is designed in such a way that it can be pre-fabricated and installed on-site. In addition, the proposal calls to reconstruct the historical railway bridge in order to connect Bordeleau Park and Stanley Park, creating one large recreational area. A video rendering of the design can be seen below.
Concept by Julius Puttkammer, Waise Sahel, Cheshta Lalit, Hayden Lemaire.
4. Friel Towers & Loblaws Roof
The Friel towers are brutalist social housing towers that need a modern look and feel. Their prime location and unique design makes the buildings a benchmark piece of architecture in Lowertown. The rundown structure can be revitalized through a new paint job and repairs to the concrete. Adding colour is simple and cost-effective, and may change the way these buildings are perceived. Like the National Arts Centre, the Friel will come to mind when people think about ‘the new brutalism.’ To complement the building’s makeover, it is proposed to repurpose the roof of Loblaws grocery store. This large flat area can be better used during the warm months as a soccer field and café space, with priority use to residents in nearby social housing units. A promenade can be built behind the grocery store, with a ramp leading up to the newly greened roof.
Concept by Jeremiah Manglit, Lenz Kersting, Aileen Duncan, Jay Patel.
© All designs and intellectual property belong to the students of the Fall 2017 ARCU3150 Principles of Urbanism course at Carleton University.