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Urban waterfront walkability and flood protection can co-exist

Calgary, Alberta

Resiliency works best when all elements of a project are interconnected. That’s exactly what we were able to do with our design for RiverWalk, an urban waterfront park in downtown Calgary.

It’s a four kilometre (two and a half mile) promenade where pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy some green space in the heart of the city. We designed it to preserve and protect the river environment. Our extensive field assessments helped us better understand flooding and historical bank conditions, and incorporate those findings into the design.

The result was a bioengineering plan that used natural materials like large plants and hearty shrubs as opposed to man-made materials like concrete walls.

We had no idea that the project would be put to the test so quickly with the 2013 floods in Alberta. Completed just a few months before the flood, 70% of the park survived the racing waters with minimum damage. The more heavily damaged areas were the ones that had had less time to grow and fortify.

Now, a mature site from start to finish, with outlooks, a waterfront plaza, steps down to the river, and distinct lighting and furniture, RiverWalk is a great place for the community and also a strong barrier to protect against the next big storm. 

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