Sturgess Architecture’s Glacier Discovery Walk wins Future Projects category at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona

Held in Barcelona, the World Architecture Festival (WAF) announced that Sturgess Architecture’s Glacier Discovery Walk design was selected to win a category award for Competition Entries in Future Projects. According to the WAF’s announcement, the jury was unanimous, citing the Discovery Walk as “simple, elegant yet highly emotional…[and] bridges to the natural in a way that is apart yet within nature.”

The Glacier Discovery Walk is a 450-metre interpretive walk carved and folded into mountainous landscape in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The walk ends with a 35-metre parabola cantilever, slightly twisted, facing the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield. This icefield straddles the Continental Divide where the North American watersheds diverge between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, and the Arctic Ocean.

Engineering and design of the walkway were based on the concept of cropping out from the landscape, creating an experience of a natural extension of the land. “We wanted to give people the opportunity to get out of their car, to experience this incredible landscape in a way that would provide a cerebral connection to our changing natural environment,” explains Jeremy Sturgess, founder and principal of the firm. “The design is founded on the idea of a mountainside outcropping, to exist as an organic extension of the landscape.”

The parabola cantilever is the result of an engineering technique taking advantage of a balance formed by opposing tension and compression members and thereby eliminating the need for a more traditional superstructure of pylons and cables above the outlook. “The apparent eccentricity of supporting the walkway on only one side is resolved by the opposing actions of a tensile cable support and a compression tube mounted below it; both working in combination with the curvature of the walkway,” says Simon Brown, Associate at the structural engineering firm Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd.

The tip of the cantilever, a 30-metre glass walkway that is floating 130-metres above ground, reveals a seamless vertical view of the glacier. Designed to outcrop the mountainside, views of the walkway from the highway a few metres above are obscured, entirely separating the pedestrian experience from the automobile experience.

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