Since 2009, the city of Calgary has been working to deliver its Memorial Drive Landscape of Memory Redevelopment Project – an effort that seeks to protect the local corridor’s legacy while memorializing the people and events that have shaped the city’s history. Improvements to the corridor include median and boulevard improvements, the planting of new trees and vegetation, and the addition of two new public plazas. Parkdale Plaza, newly opened along the Bow River, was inspired by the local community to celebrate its relationship with glacial waters and draw attention to the impact of stormwater on the city’s rivers. Calgary’s Utilities and Environmental Protection (UEP) department commissioned internationally-acclaimed artist Brian Tolle to design and build a sculpture that integrates with the plaza, educates visitors about the city’s infrastructure, and inspires them to do their part in protecting the natural watershed.
Outflow, designed as an inverted replica of Calgary’s Mount Peechee, promotes awareness of how public actions impact the environment by collecting trash, pollutants, and contaminants to show exactly what flows through storm sewers into the Bow River. The project took six years to complete, and in that time we worked on behalf of Brian Tolle to navigate the challenges associated with altering existing pipelines to connect this large art piece directly into Calgary’s public drainage system. We coordinated the construction and incredibly precise installation with city engineers, installers, art fabricators, and the manufacturer of the sculpture’s incredibly strong, fiber-reinforced, semi-flexible concrete material, Ductal. Outflow’s elegant form is constructed on top of a gravel filled foundation system that can be drained in times of flooding, and also functions to protect the river by allowing “daylighting” to occur – a process where certain volatile chemicals come in contact with the daylight and evaporate before reaching the river.
Parkdale Plaza and Outflow made their public debut on June 27, 2015, to much fanfare from the city, its residents, and the local environmental design community. One of eight permanent projects outlined in the UEP’s Public Art Plan, Outflow is everything the City and our client envisioned – a beautiful piece of art that uses creative expression to enhance the community and increase awareness around critical environmental issues impacting Calgary.