The building is conceived primarily as a shell that meanders amidst the dappled light of the tall pines. The structure bends and undulates amongst these old ‘citizens’ allowing for visitors to enjoy their scents and whispers. This symbolic gesture represents an attempt to use the building as a bridge between memories of the past and the countless opportunities and hope nested in the future of Edmonton’s vibrant population.
The building bridges the realms between the cultures of sport, art and recreation. The building demonstrates the principles of sustainability, encourages participation in sports ranging from ultimate Frisbee to speed skating, and provides a galleria for the display of public art. The building will weave itself into the fabric of Edmonton’s cultural landscape.
The existing speed skating oval generates the roots of the narrative for the building form and architectural syntax. Canadian speed skaters have made all Canadians proud with their feats of speed and power, establishing world records and winning Olympic medals along the way. The iconic image of the speed skater in full stride, muscles rippling, face grimacing with concentration and pain have inspired the architectural gesture of pulling the cladding over the supple arches. The sharp roof edges, and interplay of forms culminate in a gap between the two canopies that is adjacent to the finish line of the skating oval. The tension created at this gap symbolically represents the tension of the athletes reaching for the finish.
The building’s primary axis is east-west allowing for maximum solar gain. While no wind studies were available, it is assumed that cold winter winds will likely follow the course of the valley, or fall off the valley wall north of the site. The east west orientation mitigates building surface exposed to the wind. The north face of the building is low limiting exposure to the winds falling from the valley wall.
An efficient layout of space comprised of three primary “lungs” support three separate programmatic elements- a community lecture space, a change area for Nordic skiing and speed skating, and the Edmonton Speed Skating Club training facilities. The lecture hall, skate change area, and exercise room all have natural lighting on both north and south facing sides. The glazing to the north is significantly reduced relative to the quantity of glazing facing south. The lecture hall has views in three directions and is set immediately into the tall pines to create an oasis within the centre of Edmonton that could be used for many activities from music recitals to yoga workshops.
Between the building “lungs” are the functional cores of the building: the kitchen, washrooms, storage rooms, mechanical & electrical room, ski wax room, and Zamboni storage. The plan also indicates a potential location for showers if required by the speed skaters. This arrangement of spaces allows appropriate control for programmed spaces to ensure that more than one interest group can use the spaces when required.
The long canopy extends from the building to the ice surface. This spine serves as the primary gallery for public art. The wedge of forest nestled between the building and the canopy will serve as the trailhead for the running, walking and Nordic ski trails. This wooded area would also serve a sculpture garden. The view from the building ‘lungs’ through the slender tree trunk and structural elements toward the skaters, and skiers epitomizes the complete harmony of between building, human activity, landscape, and art.