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Enter the Garden

A new main entrance, parking lot and entry plaza sets the tone for visitors and reflects the character of the gardens.

Parkland County, AB

The garden is growing

University of Alberta Botanic Garden is anticipating a huge increase in visitation and program participation following the opening of the Aga Khan Garden and the forthcoming Ecological Learning Centre. These major facility investments at the garden have triggered the need to upgrade the design, function, and character of the main entry.

Like a walk in the park

Wayfinding is easy now! As soon as visitors arrive, it is intuitive to know where to go. Traffic from the highway is greeted by a long, stunning rammed earth wall that intentionally slows down cars and begins the relaxing experience of visiting the garden. Cars can continue along the drop off loop (perfect for bridal parties, school groups and mobility-challenged guests), or park in one of two parking lots. Pedestrian walkways are intuitively laid out to lead to the plaza, and crossing points are kept to a minimum. Golf carts use a separate cart path to shuttle visitors to and from overflow parking.

Reflection of nature

The entry plaza and parking lot is the first chapter in the story of the Botanic Garden, and the design echoes the natural surroundings. The rammed earth wall that greets traffic from the highway represents the stratified layers of the river bank, and incorporates sands found in the area. A metal fence marks the admission gates with a laser-cut silhouette of an aspen forest. Leaves collected from the site from aspen, oak, elm and poplar trees are stamped into the concrete in the 3-leaf shaped entry plaza that naturally guides visitors to 3 main areas of the garden.

Preserve and protect

The Imrie Wetland directly beside the parking lot is the only class one wetland in the region. It’s the highest quality delineated wetland in Alberta, so it needed to be protected in the design. The parking lot is designed to prevent any run off from draining into the wetland. It’s a naturally draining, biophilic design. Many old trees were preserved and incorporated into the design of the parking lot, including an extremely rare Green Dragon Spruce. It is an endangered species from Mongolia, and the only known species in North America!

Project facts

Client: University of Alberta
Services: Landscape Architecture, Planning, Electrical Engineering, Structural Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
Completed: June 2018
Collaborators: Spencer Environmental, ISL Engineering