At the Edge: The Edge, Edmonton, Alberta

An Edmonton office building contrasts a massive south-facing solar array with a transparent north façade.

When Dub Architects set out to redevelop a block in Edmonton’s warehouse district, just west of downtown, the designers were faced with an intriguing challenge. At the south end, the block was capped by a relatively narrow, 15-metre lot—an undeveloped leftover.

“As a result,” says architect Gene Dub, “you ended up with a wall that had to be a blind wall—you couldn’t put windows in it unless they were set well back from the property line.” Turning that constraint into an asset, he decided to clad the south façade of the new 10-storey building, called The Edge, with an array of 560 photovoltaic panels. 

The south-facing façade of The Edge, a 10-storey office building in Edmonton, is clad in solar photovoltaic panels that generate 80 percent of the building’s electricity. Photo by doublespace photography

The massive array generates 80 percent of the building’s electricity. Moreover, it creates a striking presence in the city: a black monolith, adorned with vertical aluminum strips that underscore its sculptural appearance.

Photo by doublespace photography

In contrast to this solidity, the north wall of the building is entirely glass—comprised of triple- and quadruple-paned units to reduce heat loss. Each floor is bookended by equally airy balconies, constructed with thermal separations in the floor slab and fitted with solar screens facing south.

Photo by doublespace photography

From inside, the effect is dramatic. For the past four years, Dub Architects has used the top two floors of the building as their office, keeping the space as an open-plan design, with a lightly suspended stair and atrium hovering over a double-height lobby. “It was almost like a Paris garret with north-facing skylights,” says Dub, recalling how the orientation meant that no window coverings were necessary. “You could watch a storm pass from one end of the building to the other—it was a really magical show.”

The dramatic design is facilitated by Dub’s ownership of the adjoining parcel: the block of warehouses has been repurposed as a series of loft condos, and won’t be redeveloped for the next 50 years. Dub himself lives in a suite right next to The Edge, enjoying views of the building from both inside and out throughout most days.

Photo by doublespace photography

That will soon come to an end, though: MC College’s Edmonton campus, which currently occupies the bottom eight storeys of the building, has enjoyed a high degree of success—perhaps in part because of the visibility of its facility—and will be taking over the top two floors to expand its program.  

This will put Dub Architects on the move again. This time, says Dub, they’ll be moving “to a 1950s building that we’re redoing.” It’s a brutalist-era precast design, he adds, “with sloped glass all over the place.” Doubtless, it’ll be soon transformed into a space that’s as special as The Edge.