Poppy Plaza, Calgary, Canada

Source:  The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative, Photographer: Yellow Camera


The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative

Type of Area

Medium-sized river with artificial banks
Outdoor public swimming pool or lido

Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Highly built
Low green

Scale of Impact


Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Small site

Project Types

Cultural regeneration
Public green space regeneration
Urban design

Urban/ Rural

Inner urban area

Visibility and Openness

Partly enclosed
Partly contained view

Respect for the Sacrifices of Previous Generations

Poppy Plaza forms the second phase in the development of Memorial Drive: a Landscape of Memory project. This corridor runs alongside the Bow River and aims to commemorate those who have served to protect freedom and security. This formerly underused space beside a busy intersection has been transformed into a public space that resonates with meaning. 

The Plaza firstly comprises a folded wooden deck, created from the heritage Balau wood. This low-maintenance deck provides seating and space, protected from the summer sun by a native aspen grove. Secondly a weathered steel wall set against the banks of the river protects the wooden deck from winter ice flows. The Cor-Ten steel does not need to be treated and has darkened to a rusty brown colour. Inspirational war time quotes from international leaders and local and national citizens are cut into the steel and backlit. These quotes speak of honour and hope. They aim to stir the emotions and invoke awe and respect for the sacrifices made by previous generations.

Two illuminated steel sculptures stand guard on the south bank and their reflections ripple in the water. The visitors reading the quotes on the north bank can see the shimmering light that represents the voice of loved ones from the past who are now out of reach. The aim is to provide a space of contemplation but also one that connects to faraway places.The combination of heritage wood and solid steel amongst the native aspen trees generates a backdrop that is both solid and at the same time ephemeral, in the same way that memory provides a solid connection to the past and simultaneously suffused with transient emotions and fleeting recollections. Thus the plaza now provides a space for contemplation, for relaxation with a combination of the sounds of the water and trees, and it has also become a place to socialise – a haven amidst a busy space.

Perception and Meaning

Sense of place
Focal point
Place identity

Health and Wellbeing

Place affordance
Better environmental perception

Interaction with Water


This city centre site scores well for accessibility, as most of the surfaces are flat and there are ramps down to the riverside promenade. There is a nearby car park and there is plenty of access for both pedestrians and cyclists. 

The design quality is high as the steel embankments protect the site from ice flows and therefore the construction fits the context. Cultural heritage also scores highly as a site of remembrance, as well as the opportunity for reflection and contemplation. The site currently scores low on sun and wind protection, which is to be expected from a riverside location but the protection from the sun should increase over time as the trees mature. 

Whilst it is possible to access the river edge, the fast flowing and cold nature of the river means it is not safe to swim and so scores low on water-based activities (Link). however, it is possible to take a boat tour.