Good Citizen: Park by Sidewalk Citizen, Calgary, Alberta
A design-build firm crafts a parkside restaurant inspired by Victorian-era conservatories.
PROJECT Park by Sidewalk Citizen, Central Memorial Park, Calgary, Alberta
DESIGNER Studio North
PHOTOS Hayden Pattullo
At the edge of Central Memorial Park, just south of downtown Calgary, an unassuming one-storey pavilion opens into a slice of paradise. A lemon bush reaches skyward to meet a cascade of wooden ribs, pyramiding up to two large skylights. Surrounding trees cast their shadows on the translucent walls, creating a dance of leaf silhouettes framed by tall, pointed arch window frames. Glass garage doors open to the park beyond, bringing verdant views and a flood of daylight into the room, the main dining space for Park by Sidewalk Citizen.
The park is Calgary’s oldest, founded in 1911, and Victorian-era glass-and-iron conservatories were an inspiration. “How else can you do something like that? There’s a nice feeling in here,” says Matthew Kennedy, co-founder of Studio North and the project’s lead designer. The designers also uncovered historic images of garden rooms—semi-enclosed, trellis-lined spaces for picnicking—that ringed the park 100 years ago. “That was a strong reference for the structure and aesthetic,” explains Damon Hayes Couture, Creative Director at Studio North. In the entryway of the pavilion, X-shaped motifs CNC-cut into plywood walls are patterned after the ornate window screens of Alberta’s first public library, a neoclassical building located at the heart of Central Memorial Park.
Park by Sidewalk Citizen results from a can-do approach by client, designer, and the City of Calgary. Several operators had cycled through the park’s existing 30-seat restaurant, which sits adjacent to the new pavilion. Attracting Sidewalk Citizen—a local bakery and restaurant with a civic-minded reputation—was seen as a win for bringing a friendly, culture-minded presence to a tough part of the city.
To make the restaurant viable, a renovation and larger space were needed that would deliver a wow factor on a tight budget. Studio North’s design-build approach was perfectly suited for the task. “We’re able to be really nimble, and to carry through a vision from start to finish, especially when it’s something this unique,” says Studio North co-founder Mark Erickson. “With the prefabrication and digital fabrication aspects, it leads to more design involvement in construction,” adds Hayes Couture. “It’s much harder to separate those two disciplines.”
The integrated roof and wall structure in the dining room is made from 160 sheets of plywood, which were CNC-cut in Matthew Kennedy’s garage over 150 hours. Because of the size constraints of the plywood panels and CNC cutting bed, the lattice is composed of multiple layers of plywood, staggered to avoid intersecting seams and structural weak points. The nail-less structure was slotted together on-site, using 137 linear metres of dowel connections.
Polycarbonate was chosen for the outer walls as an impact-resistant material that would let light in, and transform the restaurant into a glowing box at night.
The City facilitated the project by permitting it as an enclosed patio space, which could be dismantled without affecting the existing restaurant or the heritage park. The total cost of the construction, including renovations to the existing restaurant, was just $550,000. “We pushed the budget really hard on this,” says Kennedy.
Extending the use of the space into all four seasons, a central fireplace and HRV system provide heating in the winter. Passive solar gain into the space also contributes to keeping it cozy. In the warmest days of summer, the skylights and garage door open up to encourage breezes.
While the solarium operates day-to-day as a restaurant, its stunning design makes it a natural as an event space. In its first years of operation, Sidewalk Citizen has hosted salon dinners and over a dozen weddings, with the solarium morphing from ceremony space, to dining room, to dance floor.
Thoughtful design flourishes pepper the space. A mirror rings the lower edge of the east wall, adding to a sense of spaciousness. A single clear-glass, operating window at the southwest corner offers a leafy view.
And there’s a personal touch in the dining room’s subtropical plant collection: the fig tree at the room’s west end was grown from a cutting of a specimen in designer Damon Hayes Couture’s own solarium. Hayes Couture’s house addition was an early design by Studio North, from a decade ago, and following the construction he joined the Studio North team. Hayes Couture currently has a few more seedlings taking root, so the offspring of his tree—along with the ever-evolving creativity and design talents of the group—are sure to grace Studio North’s future work.
CLIENT Sidewalk Citizen | DESIGN TEAM Design—Matthew Kennedy, Damon Hayes Couture; Parametric Design—Nicolas Hamel; General Contracting—Matthew Kennedy; Fabrication and Assembly—Dan Vanderhoorst; Site Carpentry—Ryan Peters, Matthew Peters, Jeremy Adams | INTERIORS Field Kit | STRUCTURAL RJC | MECHANICAL Remedy | AREA 116 m2 | CONSTRUCTION BUDGET $550 K | COMPLETION October 2019