The Leaf opens at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg

The first horticultural attraction designed by KPMB Architects is now open at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park.

The Leaf (Photo credits: Ema Peter Photography)

The Leaf, which marks the first horticultural attraction designed by KPMB Architects, is now open at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park.

The project spans 35 acres, houses four plant biomes, and includes a new butterfly garden, classroom, restaurant, and coffee bar.

The Leaf constitutes a major part of Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s redevelopment plan and features an interactive environment that puts a focus on the relationships between plants and people, as well as a sustainable precedent focusing on horticulture, plants, and the environment.

The Leaf (Photo credits: Richard Seck)

The Conservancy has been rejuvenating the century old grounds since 2009 with the addition of the Assiniboine Park Zoo and now, The Leaf.

KPMB Architects, in partnership with Architecture49, Blackwell Structural Engineers and HTFC Planning & Design, developed a design for The Leaf that reflected the Conservancy’s mission to “promote greater public understanding and appreciation for the natural world.”

The Leaf (Photo credits: Ema Peter Photography)

The Leaf’s roof is the hallmark of the design and takes its shape from nature and the Fibonacci sequence. The gentle spiral net, which is found in sunflowers and nautilus shells is extrapolated in the cablenet structure of the roof, which unfurls around the body of the The Leaf like a blossoming flower.

Lights within The Leaf were also placed strategically on a diagrid 33 metres from grade and reflectors that hang overhead, allowing light to mimic effects of natural moonlight, thunderstorms and even the Northern Lights.

The Leaf (Photo credits: Richard Seck)

“For The Leaf, we wanted to create a transcendent experience that centres nature and sustainability. We wanted to do something innovative, something extraordinary, that could be enjoyed year-round in a city with extreme climates. The structure is inspired by nature with a roof that unfurls like a petal and the diverse biomes inside encourage curiosity, learning and delight at every turn. The architecture goes beyond a mere place to house and showcase these climate biomes. The building itself is designed as an ode to the beauty of nature so visitors can feel the respect for the earth and environment from the very first look,” said Mitchell Hall, KPMB partner.

The Leaf (Photo credits: Ema Peter Photography)

The Leaf aims to play a key role in shaping how communities interact with nature as it houses four biomes where over 400 plant species flourish. Those who visit will start in the Hartley and Heather Richardson Tropical Biome that features a pathway encouraging discovery, with Canada’s tallest indoor waterfall in view.

The Mediterranean Biome brings together vibrant colours, textures and fragrances of native plants from Greece, Italy, South Africa, and Chile while the Babs Asper Display House celebrates the art of horticulture with a rotating schedule of floral displays that will change four to five times per year. Additionally, the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden provides access to a canopy walkway that wraps around the waterfall and overlooks the Tropical Biome.

“As Winnipegger’s we celebrate the extremes of our climate, however even the hardiest of us appreciate a break from the long cold dry winter. The Leaf is an affordable, approachable and accessible urban oasis in the winter desert that transports one temporarily away and connects all people to plants in faraway lands. The facility is a fantastical technical achievement that elevates the spirit through the amplification of the natural systems to allow visitors to reawaken
their appreciation of the horticultural world while the outside world is in hibernation,” said Lee McCormick, Managing Principal, Architecture49, Manitoba.

The Leaf (Photo credits: Ema Peter Photography)

The Leaf is one of Canada’s largest Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) buildings that showcases a material that has an improved thermal performance in comparison to conventional greenhouse construction materials.

The Leaf’s outdoor gardens, which were designed by HTFC Planning & Design, stretch across 30 acres of gardens and greenspace in the southeast corner of Assiniboine Park and connect the building to the outdoors.