Government of Alberta
Janet Rosenberg & Studio (Landscape Architect)
GEC Architecture (Prime Consultant / Architect)
RJC Consulting Engineers (Structural Engineering)
AME Group (Mechanical Engineering)
SMP Engineering (Electrical Engineering)
RJC Consulting Engineers (Civil Engineering)
Photography Credits: Renderings by BRICK, construction photos by JRS/GEC
The Alberta Legislature Grounds are an important public realm space and civic landscape for Albertans to gather and celebrate their shared heritage and identity. Located on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River in downtown Edmonton, the site is the home of the Alberta Legislature Building – built between 1907 and 1913 in the Beaux Arts style – where the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and the Executive Council of Alberta sit. The grounds host a variety of events throughout the year, from Canada Day celebrations to demonstrations, and serve as a true reflection of Alberta’s rich history and values.
Originally built in the 1970s, the North Plaza grounds included three distinct water features – a reflecting pool, an ornamental dome fountain, and four small connected terraced wading pools. Since 2020, the water features have not been in operation due to health and safety concerns and aging infrastructure. The perimeter concrete decking surrounding the features was also at the end of its life and in need of significant repair.
JRS in collaboration with GEC won an RFP in July 2022 to revitalize the North Plaza. During Schematic Design, three concepts were prepared and circulated for public feedback via a survey in January 2023. River, the winning concept design, was influenced and inspired by the natural landforms and physiographic regions of Alberta. Large and sculptural granite boulders line an undulating “river” with mist, fog, spray, spouts, and groundwater animation play features. The boulders establish a direct connection to the geological, agricultural, and cultural heritage of the province. To realize the vision, JRS and GEC worked with GMS Aggregates, a local Edmonton Quarry, to hand-select unique boulders unearthed from active farmland throughout central Alberta. Selected boulders were 3D scanned using polycam to give a full understanding of the shape, texture and character for use in the design process. Large boulders make working the land difficult for local farmers. GMS assists farmers by extracting the rocks from their land for free, using them to make aggregate for building projects. Capitalizing on this service enabled us to sustainably procure something uniquely connected to Alberta’s landscape.
The design preserves the existing mature tree canopy of Green Ash, American Elm and Lodgepole Pines (the Provincial tree of Alberta), improves the pedestrian promenade and terraced seating areas, rebuilds the reflecting pool and ornamental dome fountain, and completely transforms the terraced wading pools into three interconnected, interactive spray parks. The design includes native plantings throughout, drawing heavily on alpine and prairie perennials that are unique to Alberta’s diverse landscape from the Western Cordillera to the Interior Plains. Reinforced turf will be added to the lawn areas throughout for added structural integrity during large public events throughout the year, including traditional community uses such as the holiday lighting of the grounds and other public events in the amphitheater.
Sustainability and accessibility are both key drivers of the design. Granite components from the original reflecting pool are being reused in the new design, while new water features drain to a holding tank that is treated and then recirculated, minimizing the demand for potable water use. The reflective wading pool, originally raised and not easily accessible to all, has been redesigned to allow for all mobility levels to enter. The new splash pads will feature full perimeter flush access points from the promenades, allowing for accessibility to all areas. The promenades are flanked by new terraced seating profiles and increased open lawn areas for a variety of users to sit, lounge, play, and enjoy.