South Haven Centre for Remembrance by Shape Architecture | World Design Awards 2020

Shape Architecture: Honorable Mention of World Design Awards 2020. The new South Haven Centre for Remembrance creates a new non-denominational facility for the City of Edmonton. The primary objective of the design was to memorialize moments in time and spatially capture the quality of the seasons through the interplay of light, shadow and darkness. The design features a symbolic thirteen metre tower which emerges from the prairie landscape which makes reference to the existing grave sites, monuments, columbaria and the latent memory that they embody. Our memory of visiting a cemetery is marked by time; the position of the sun, the quality of light and the weather on that particular day. For some it may be a solitary visit for a ceremony, for others it may be experienced through ritual visits which span the rest of their lives.

The unique nature of this building typology was coupled with the rare opportunity to position a building within a vast twenty-one hectare site. The development of a partially submerged landform building was conceived of as a wandering line in the landscape providing visual connection to and from the building. The planning strategy focused on the careful placement of the main entry and key public program spaces which allow a spatial sequence of public spaces to unfold to address public arrival as well as are providing spaces and areas for silence, reflection and pause.

The organizational strategy spatially distinguishes between the ephemeral and the permanent. The ephemeral reference short visits and respond to the natural characteristics of light, sound and weather which are closely connected to time and the seasons. The permanent correspond to burial and the physical record associated with sustaining memory and the physical artifacts that characterize the cemetery; this is the deep foundation of the building as they service the everlasting memory of the individuals that are laid to rest in the Cemetery.

The color and overall character of the building considers the relationship of modulating light patterns within the building interior throughout the seasons as well as the long crisp winter shadows that are cast from the building edges. The combination of black hot rolled steel panels and a black charred (shou sugi-ban accoya) skin act as a counterpoint to the snowy winter conditions and the changing relationship of the building in the landscape throughout the year. The main entrance sequence provides a compressed moment of darkness prior to opening the oversized steel pivot doors which reveal the light luminous interior space and the framed view of the downtown skyline viewed across the winter-garden courtyard.

The tower is characterized by a large triangular clerestory which allows diffuse north light to enter the meeting rooms. The form and development of the tower evolved through multiple iterations to optimize the quality of light and more specifically; how light and shadow casts within the tower on the summer solstice. The word Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) and the reverence of light and shadow within the tower are celebrated on this annual datum.

Firm: Shape Architecture
Architect: Dwayne Smyth
Category: Cultural Built
Project Location: 5004 Meridian St NW, Edmonton, AB T6P 1R3, Canada
Team: Dwayne Smyth, Nick Sully, Jessica McGillivray, Benjamin Fisher, Scotty Keck, Avery Titchkosky, Kate Busby, Bill Pechet, Anneliese Fris, James Townsend, Eric Hui
Country: Canada
Photography ©Credit: Shape Architecture

With over twenty years of professional and academic experience in architecture, Dwayne received both a Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture from Montana State University and studied abroad at both the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and the Bauhaus in Dessau. Dwayne’s passion for design has been rewarded with multiple Lieutenant Governors Awards as well as the Canadian Architect Award of Excellence. He joined SHAPE Architecture as a partner in 2012 and since then has worked on variety of public projects that seek to translate significant social and cultural ideas into simple, elegant and memorable buildings. The South Haven Centre for Remembrance was recently awarded the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for 2020.