For more than a century Assiniboine Park has been the crown jewel in Winnipeg’s regional park system. Designed by Canada’s pioneer landscape architect and Olmsted apprentice, Frederick Todd, it takes its place alongside the great urban parks in Canada. After decades of declining maintenance, the riverside green space is undergoing a modern transformation that will see it reclaim its place as a social, educational and recreational hub in the city. The focus for the park’s development is to re-connect visitors to its spectacular landscape through recreation, learning and discovery opportunities. New nature playgrounds and pathways celebrate the unique natural environment providing an interactive experience in every season. The ‘Family Centre’ is the architectural heart of the new development located along the shore of the park’s iconic ‘duck pond’, forming a transition between the water’s edge and the surrounding burr-oak forest.
The 900 square metre building functions as a focal point and gathering place, offering the modern amenities long absent from the park. The form of the new building supports and enhances the design principles of all the new components of the park by celebrating a connection with the outdoors while offering a protected indoor environment in all seasons. The sights, sounds and smells of the park permeate through every room of the Family Centre enhancing the visitor’s relationship with the landscape at all times. The architecture is intended to encourage a spirit of discovery through its form, showcasing the landscape while being part of it. The challenge was to resolve the dichotomy of celebrating the natural surroundings while injecting an unnatural object into it. The appropriate consideration of structure, materials and layout allows the building to age and evolve along with its surroundings, growing from and into its place. The goal for the Family Centre was to tell the story of the park through its architecture, evoking a sense of wonder, attracting, welcoming and inspiring the next generation to form a personal connection to Assiniboine Park and its dramatic natural environment.
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