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Trains, Plains, & Automobiles Creating Connectivity within the New Aboriginal Building Site Arch 523/ARST 423: Sustainability

Trains, Plains, & Automobiles

Creating Connectivity within the New Aboriginal Building Site

Arch 523/ARST 423: Sustainability in the Built Environment Assignment 2

Sumer Matharu

Akira Ohtake

Camilla Christensen

Arely Zavala Olmedo

Stephen Hews

Caila Anderson

Amanda VanderZee

Mike Crawford

Executive Summary

We were commissioned to identify an exemplary site of approximately 3000 sq.m., for a proposed Aboriginal Center, within the lands owned by the client, The University of Calgary. The selected site considers the needs of Aboriginal students, fosters greater integration of campus and Aboriginal life, and provides a venue for local and national Aboriginal gatherings. Additionally, the site celebrates Aboriginal values with an iconic design, showcasing sustainable building practices, and displays sensitivity to environ- mental, economic, and social equity. Criteria for the site selection was informed by the University of Calgary’s mandate, interviews with representatives of the Native Center, cultural research, and site specific characteristics.

The analysis identifies several objectives:

  • 1. prominent location that confirms the client’s respect for Aboriginals

  • 2. multi-modal accessibility

  • 3. minimize demolition or disturbance of existing infrastructure

  • 4. avoid visual or functional competition with other buildings

  • 5. encourage intercultural usage and invite student interactions

  • 6. neutral space around site that could be used for cultural events

  • 7. a sense of respite and connection with natural elements (sun, earth, wind, water).

Several locations were assessed based on these criteria, resulting in four sites being evaluated for comparison. One site was self evident in meeting the many criteria. The selected site possesses the qualities of respect, inclusivity, connectivity, and harmony with the natural environment.



Our design firm was engaged by our client, the University of Calgary, to identify a location for a proposed Aboriginal Center, within university lands. The client specified the size of the building to be 2000sqm, and the footprint to be approximately 3000sqm. Our client advocated a respect for Aboriginal and University values; a commitment to sustainability, notably, environment, eco- nomics and social equity; and an intent to create an iconic landmark to be celebrated.

Consultation with stakeholders identified criterion that informed the site selection. The follow- ing proposed site best meets the requirements of all. The specifics of the criteria, process and site rationale are presented as follows.

  • 3.0 Criteria:

Criteria for the site was informed by consultation with representatives of the Native Center, as well as consideration of Aboriginal students, the University of Calgary, Treaty 7 Nations, and the Public. These criteria were categorized into: cultural values; campus integration; Aboriginal Center requirements, landmark.

  • 3.1 Cultural Values:

Representatives of the Native Center noted cultural considerations particular to the Aboriginal community. These considerations include:

a connection to the four elements (earth, air, fire, water)

building orientation to sunrise and sunset;

a natural landscape;

accessibility for Aboriginal students who use public transit;

integration into campus life;

fostering interactions between Aboriginal and other students;

respectful location that offers reconciliation towards Aboriginals.

  • 3.2 Campus Integration:

The success of any facility can be measured by the quality of experience of its patrons. Addi- tionally, a successful building enhances the social fabric of its user. Consideration must be given to the physical proximity to other amenities and facilities, as well as the flow of student life between classes throughout the day.

connectivity through existing pathways;

modifications or additional pathways as required;

accessibility for student body and public.

3.3 Aboriginal Center Requirements:

The Aboriginal Center will perform a variety of functions including both ceremonial and edu- cational. Ceremonial functions will require convenient and high quality access for dignitaries, open spaces for the large gatherings, and access to natural landscapes. Educational functions of the center will require proximity to classes in other faculties, support for families and childcare, accessibility to public transit, visibility and inclusivity in campus life and activities, as well as operating as a home away from home for visiting and Treaty 7 aboriginals.

Connection with Natural environment

visual connection with outdoors;

reduce sound pollution and provide opportunities for natural sounds (trees, birds);

access to open space;

create harmony between site and building;

celebrate and respect the spiritual sense of place;

ample sunlight;

elements of fire, earth, wind, and water;

use of natural materials and in building and site landscaping.


capture solar gain and reduce adverse wind effects;

green roof that serves as public space and ability to grow herbs and culturally valued vegetation;

mitigate environmental disturbance;

conscious of cost of site preparation;

make use of existing infrastructure and services (efficiency).


proximity to multi-modal access;

encourage casual student interactions;

serve as a place of study and use for all campus users.

3.4 Showcase

The Aboriginal Center will become an iconic landmark and meeting place for Treaty 7 peoples and visitors. Accordingly, the site must have high visibility and a central location that compels respect and social equity.

site to be located in high profile location;

central site to reconcile historical practices of pushing aboriginals to periphery;

location that encourages intercultural use and invites interaction with rest of campus;

a view that is not competing or framed by other buildings


photogenic, etc;

encourage familiarity for other students.

4.0 Comparison

Four sites were compared based on the mandate of respect, inclusivity, connectivity, and aware- ness of the natural environment. Each site was evaluated according to their unique opportuni- ties and challenges.

Campus Map West Campus East Campus Central Campus Soccer Pitch
Campus Map
West Campus
East Campus
Central Campus
Soccer Pitch
Site Name Advantages Disadvantages
Site Name

West Campus 1

exposure to the four elements

placement at the periphery of the

(Near Children’s Hospital)

connection to the mountains

campus boundary



poor accessibility for visitors

• proximity to Children’s Hospital traveling via transit

proximity to Children’s Hospital

traveling via transit

high visibility to traffic on the highway

perception of insult at being placed at “periphery” of campus

great access by existing roads

ceremonial gathering

Inclusivity of student body is

proximity to future campus expansion plans

hampered by distance from main campus


development would not reach this


open-space available for Aboriginal



concerns about proximity to infrastructure and its attendant costs

poor slope integrity and slumping


East Campus

located at the entrance to the

towards the outside edge of main

(by the C-train)

C-train station


• large site • noise pollution associated with

large site

noise pollution associated with

natural grading directed towards the

commuter and foot traffic

access road

limited opportunity for outdoor

high student traffic


sun exposure


high visibility for both students and public traffic

central to main campus activity and




Central Campus

the heart of the campus

appropriation of well used green

(by McEwan hall)

exposure to both students and


public foot traffic • competitive visual hierarchy of

public foot traffic

competitive visual hierarchy of

limited topographic constraints

surrounding structures

adequate sun exposure

pedestrian pathways would require relocation


limited available land


Soccer Pitch

exposure to the elements

ceremonial gathering

detached from core campus area

• open-space available for Aboriginal • poor accessibility by foot

open-space available for Aboriginal

poor accessibility by foot

limited natural landscaping

accessibility by road

current allocated land use

at the crossroads of future campus


Site Selection

Respect, inclusivity, connectivity and awareness of the natural environment informed the devel- opment of the recommended Aboriginal Center site, (“the site”). This location celebrates the University of Calgary’s mandate of “people first” while also showcasing its leading edge design and sustainable building practices.

The site is located on east campus, nestled between the Child Care Facility, Administration and Professional Faculties, and the Biological Sciences and Social Sciences Buildings. The main entrance is located to the east, facing Campus Drive. The site would receive the rising sun as students make their way to campus from the LRT.

  • 5.1 Site in Plan View

East Campus Site Outline Building In situ
East Campus
Site Outline
Building In situ
  • 5.2 Photos of Current Site

Looking North-West
Looking North-West

5.3 Building In situ

Looking Further North-West
Looking Further North-West
Building in Perspective
Building in Perspective
Building in Elevation
Building in Elevation


Comparison: Site Sections

SECTION 1 Site Proposal
SECTION 1 Site Proposal

SECTION 1 Actual Site

SECTION 2 Site Proporsal SECTION 2 Actual Site
SECTION 2 Site Proporsal
SECTION 2 Actual Site

SECTION 3 Site Proporsal

5.4 Comparison: Site Sections SECTION 1 Site Proposal SECTION 1 Actual Site SECTION 2 Site Proporsal

SECTION 3 Actual Site


Accessibility is a core design consideration if the site is to fulfill the dual role of being both an educational and civic institution. The Aboriginal Center will benefit from existing circulation paths of pedestrian and bike traffic, as well as its proximity to LRT and main traffic corridors. The paths are illustrated in the following diagrams, which depict typical pedestrian volumes and

movement patterns at the site.

LRT Site Vegetation Map LEGEND Proposed Additional Pathways Highest Use Pedestrian Paths Medium Use Pedestrian Paths
Site Vegetation Map
Proposed Additional Pathways
Highest Use Pedestrian Paths
Medium Use Pedestrian Paths
Low Use Pedestrian Paths
Roads & Parking
Desire Lines for Pedestrian Paths


The Aboriginal Center will function as a venue for symbolic meetings and act as a place of as- sembly for dignitaries. As such, sufficient parking that allows for comfort in all weather condi- tions should be provided. An underground parkade, accessed from the existing lot 25 would increase the quantity and quality of parking stalls servicing the area. The building footprint would require the removal of lot 25, and the loss of ~70 uncovered parking stalls. Situating the site at the location of a low value existing parking lot reduces costs as well as disruption to nearby infrastructure such as paths, utilities, and natural landscaping. The proposed parkade would upgrade the parking from 70 to 140 stalls (assuming 30sq meters per stall and a 2 level parkade), providing covered, heated parking, appropriate for the needs of the Aboriginal Cen- ter. The parkade could serve the needs of the nearby Haskayne School of Business, Professional

Faculties and Campus Administration, potentially allowing for partial project recovery cost.

Existing Infrastructure:

The site would tie in to water-mains on the east perimeter, requiring only modest and tempo- rary disturbance to the road. There are no water-mains, gas lines, power lines, or other infra- structure underlying the proposed site. All infrastructure and utilities can be accessed within

30m, thus reducing cost and time of construction

Exisiting Storm Water Infrastructure

Existing Infrastructure: The site would tie in to water-mains on the east perimeter, requiring only modest

Storm Water Catchment Area

Existing Infrastructure: The site would tie in to water-mains on the east perimeter, requiring only modest


As shown above, the existing site sits in a depression approximately 0.3-0.6m below the nearest storm drain and road elevation. This equates to a negative slope of ~1.2%, and thus requires alterations to the existing grade. It is recommended that the elevation be raised from 1106.7 to 1107.5m, with radial drainage away from the structure. This will ensure the facility does not incur drainage issues or adverse effects of prolonged moisture along the concrete footings of the structure.

Drainage along the East and North facades of the facility would be onto the adjacent roads. Due to the limited catchment area on both of these facades, this is not anticipated to increase storm run-off substantially. Along the South and West facade of the facility, drainage will require an engineered catchment slope that directs water towards the storm drains, approx- imately 50m away, which parallel the east edge of parking lot 28. Additionally, dry cisterns could be installed along the east perimeter of the pedestrian paths to capture excess water in rainfall events. Cisterns would mitigate damage to green-space and pathways due to excessive moisture. A green roof comprised of sedums and moss would provide rainwater catchment for over half of the site area (2000 sq meters of 3000). As a whole, the facility will not significantly alter existing drainage patterns or cause excessive run-off.


Construction would require the removal of the existing pavement and infrastructure of lot 25. Additionally, a number of existing trees and bushes would require removal or relocation. The associated impacts of this requirement are considered minimal. Loss of existing vegetation would be addressed through extensive plantings and the green roof. The proposed location of the building would not adversely impact sight-lines, paths, or traffic flow, nor would it impose significant shadowing on adjacent facilities.

Environmental Consideration:

Local soil types anticipated are clay rich soils suitable for vegetation to a depth of 0.6-1.5m depth, underlain by several meters of sandy clay. [NEEDS NOTATION] These are typical of the area and pose no particular technical consideration for building construction.

Solar Gain and Natural Light:

The site and building orientation allow for maximum solar gain from sunrise until noon through- out the year. The green roof is oriented to absorb early and mid-afternoon heat, reducing ener- gy loads required to manage temperature fluctuations, as well as allowing for a longer growing season of plantings. The late afternoon and evening sun could result in excessive heat on the west face of the facility, and consideration should be given when choosing cladding materials (glass, concrete, etc). The glazed north face of the facility would experience net heat loss, and is not optimal from an efficiency standpoint. However, the benefit of attracting the attention of passing pedestrians drives the social sustainability and inclusivity of the site.

Solar Incidence Map

The facility will be exposed to an unob- structed sunrise and sunlight in all sea- sons.
The facility will be exposed to an unob-
structed sunrise and sunlight in all sea-
sons. This enhances the visual appeal
of the structure and site and the expe-
rience of the building patrons. During
the winter months, the facility will
experience minimal shadowing from
nearby buildings in the mid-afternoon
due to the low angle of incidence of the
sun. The diagram below indicates the
solar path at various time of the year.
Summer Solistice
Winter Solistice


Prevailing winds influencing the site originate from the northwest during the summer months and the southwest in the winter. The surrounding buildings and existing vegetation will dra- matically buffer wind in both directions leading to reduced associated heat loss. The following diagrams illustrate the expected wind shadowing experienced on site.

Natural Surroundings:

The four elements – fire, water, earth and air – are integral to aboriginal tradition (Bastien 1999:114); the site offers all four. The building’s glazed area and entry lie along an East-West axis with no view or light obstructions, building the connection with the element of fire. The planned ornamental pond which will surround the Center creates a connection to the element of wa- ter, while the green roof and proposed garden emphasizes connection to the land. The rooftop garden would provide the Center with access to the plants and herbs used in ceremony, and traditional cuisine. The site makes use of existing and newly planted foliage to provide a sense of seclusion while maintaining a connection to the wider university campus. Staff and students will be able to hear the leaves rustle in the wind, and the plantings will also alleviate any possible sense of compression caused by the surrounding buildings.


Noise could be a concern during peak traffic hours due to the proximity to a main artery road, and the LRT. Plantings of soft landscaping features as well as trees along the boundary of the facility and the road would reduce noise pollution.


Design solutions for site:

As previously noted, the site has a few challenges (loss of the parking lot, heat loss, loss of pub- lic space, additional land for ceremonies) that must be considered. Some design solutions for

these challenges are:

  • 1. undergound parking, to address loss of surface parking and accommodate increased demand.

  • 2. glazing of the Aboriginal Center should balance the demands of light, heat and views, in consideration of the existing buildings surrounding the site. Given the cultural require- ment for a connection with the land, and the other creatures who inhabit it, it might also be wise to employ bird safe glass.

  • 3. a green roof which is accessible to the public would ensure a minimal net loss of existing public space.

  • 4. shuttle access to the hillside grassland environment at West Campus would provide for the needs of additional outdoor space for Aboriginal ceremonial and cultural purposes.

  • 6.0 Conclusion:

The proposed site is uniquely qualified to meet the program and requirements of the planned Aboriginal Center. When oriented with the entrance to the East, the building would fully inte- grate with the land, existing pathways, and flow of student life. The site is well suited for sus- tainable practices in that it allows for solar gain, is exposed to minimal winds, causes minimal environmental disturbance and realizes efficiencies owing to proximity to existing infrastruc- ture.

At present, the site is adjacent to a primary point of access to the campus, a connection point for the Childcare Facility, and parking. Integrating the Aboriginal Center at this location would improve upon each of these functions. Additionally, the proximity of the site to multi-modal access would encourage community participation and intercultural dialogue. The iconic design and distinct location of the center honors the Aboriginal needs for a connection to the land. This will be a site that Aboriginals can proudly call their own.

The center will serve Aboriginal students as well as the greater student body and the public. Aboriginals will have the opportunity to thrive in an environment that reflects their culture, art, history and values. Students will have a distinct space in which to study and meet while absorb- ing the history, art and culture unique to the Treaty 7 peoples. Ceremonies, gatherings, Pow- wows, and instructional classes are all within the purview of the Center’s daily operations.

In summary, the site fosters respect, inclusivity, connectivity, and integration into the natural and social environment. The iconic design and location honors the needs of Aboriginals, the University, students, and the public, parlaying into an enhanced student and cultural experi- ence.

7.0 References:

  • 1. Bastien, B. J. (1999). Blackfoot ways of knowing: Indigenous science. (Order No. 9955003, California Institute of Integral Studies).

  • 2. (a blackfoot framework for decision mak- ing ) ...

  • 3. Spoonhunter, T. L. (2014). Blackfoot confederacy keepers of the rocky mountains. (Order No. 3623571, The University of Arizona).

  • 4. Hernandez, N. (1999). Mokakssini: A blackfoot theory of knowledge. (Order No. 9933131, Harvard University).

  • 5. Inanloo Dailoo, S. (2009). Takht-e-soleyman and head-smashed-in buffalo jump: The recognition and conservation of world heritage cultural landscapes.

  • 6. Venhaus, Heather L. 2012. Designing the Sustainable Site : Integrated Design Strategies for Small Scale Sites and Residential Landscapes. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.