In the geographical and cultural centre of the city, the Sidewalk Citizen Solarium in Central Memorial Park is a space filled with light and life. Composed of a restaurant renovation, a solarium addition, and an entrance hall, the aim of the project is to connect to the park's historic context in a meaningful way while growing with the diverse and dynamic community around it. Inspired by conservatories and plant nurseries, the Sidewalk Citizen Solarium is an homage to the quiet spaces we go to experience nature.
As Calgary's first public park and a recently designated national historic site, Central Memorial Park is a prominent place in the city’s urban fabric. Developed during Calgary’s first major boom at the turn of the 20th century, the park shows the confidence and optimism of a young city, a spirit which remains to this day. In the century since its inception, the area surrounding the park has changed considerably, while the elaborate gardens and geometric pathways of the formal Victorian gardens have lost their lustre. An influx of high-rise development in recent years, however, has increased the need for outdoor amenity spaces to relax, play, and recreate in the downtown. The ambition of the Sidewalk Citizen Solarium is to reinvigorate Central Memorial Park with a year-round dining and event space that connects the park to the city and the city to the park.
As a civic minded client, Sidewalk Citizen restaurant and bakery approached Studio North to design a space that would quietly respect the reserved historic character of the park while playfully participating in the dynamic urban context. The former restaurant ventures in that location failed due in part to a lack of seating, especially during the winter months when it became too cold to dine outdoors. Early in the design process, it was discovered that Central Memorial Park formerly featured ‘garden rooms,’ semi-enclosed spaces for picnicking amongst the greenery of the park. Using this historical precedent as inspiration, the garden rooms planted the seed of an idea that would grow into the wooden lattice structure of the solarium.
The Sidewalk Citizen Solarium draws on the rich history and context of the park to create a space for people to enjoy each other’s company amongst lush greenery, similar to the garden rooms of the past. The building’s new entry hall serves as a front door and a direct link to the city. As a nod to the character of the park, the entry hall is clad with a variable aperture pattern inspired by façade details on the Memorial Park Library. As a four seasons greenhouse, the solarium dining room brings the park inside for the winter and seamlessly integrates into the greenery during the summer. Abundant natural light and controlled climate fosters the growth of several species of plants, including a fig tree, a lemon bush, and many other subtropical plants. From first light in the morning, the translucent cladding floods the space with a soft, diffuse natural light, washing over the restaurant’s patrons and plants throughout the day. The building’s polycarbonate skin has a high level of UV transmission as well as a high insulative value, both of which are crucial in passively heating the space throughout the year. In the warmer months, a large overhead door opens up the space to the park, pulling a breeze through the solarium and up through the skylights. Several strategically placed windows along the building’s façade allow for passive cross ventilation to ensure that the space stays fresh and cool. Two fireplaces with integrated planters provide supplementary heat and create an intimate and intriguing dining experience.
Location Central Memorial Park, Calgary
Size 2,150sq ft
Collaborators Field Kit, RJC Engineering
Status Completed October 2019
The undulating grid of the roof structure carefully choreographs the amount of light that comes in through the apertures. As shadows are cast on the building’s roof, the cathedral-like space is animated by the dappled light, constantly shifting throughout the day. Sitting back and looking up, the sinuous structural lines of the roof and walls invite the eye to wander from one side of the space to the other. At night, light emanates from the wooden lattice structure, illuminating the park around it. The wood lattice structure that forms the roof and walls of the solarium is made entirely of 3/4” fir plywood CNC milled in-house by Studio North.
The plywood components are laminated with wood dowels to form continuous structural members that function as both columns and rafters, stretching from one side of the structure to the other. The rigid frames simply slot together using cross-halved joints which allow for ease of onsite assembly. Over large spans such as the garage door and entryway, exposed laminated veneer lumber supplements the lattice canopy structure. The structure was designed and modelled parametrically in order to ensure a high level of iterability, maintain precise tolerances and accuracy, and seamlessly transition from design, to fabrication to onsite assembly. The entire lattice structure took 160 sheets of plywood (or 4,700 square feet of material) milled over 150 CNC hours, as well as 450 linear feet of dowel to construct.