By : The Planning Partnership, Martin Simmons Architects
GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN – 16th edition
Discipline : Landscape & Territories
Categories : Landscape Architecture / Landscape Architecture - Commercial & Office Project : Gold Certification
The Manulife site is located in the City of Waterloo, on the edge of a commercial/residential area that also borders Four Wells Lake, and a trail system along Forwell Creek. These waterbodies and the surrounding wooded areas are a part of Waterloo’s natural heritage system, and provide habitat for birds, pollinator insects and other native species. The landscape around the Manulife headquarters slopes down towards these natural features, and is inadvertently a transition zone between the naturalized littoral zone of Forwell Creek, and the cultivated landscape of the office building. This condition became an opportunity to use the new landscaping to support and amplify the biodiversity of the surrounding naturalized area. The planting strategy used 100% native species, designed to be both low-maintenance and appropriate to the site, as well as a striking horticultural landscape. In addition to drawing on species historically native this region, the planting was inspired by the landscape of the Canadian Carolinian Zone.. Its boundary is based on the northern limit of key species which are typically only found in more southern regions. As a region defined by climate, and the ranges of flora and fauna, the edge of the Carolinian Zone is blurry, and slowly moving north as our climate changes.
The program for the site includes rest areas and a ramping boardwalk around an existing stormwater pond, as well as restoration of the plantings and enhanced paving throughout the adjacent parking area and entry sequence. The elevated boardwalk over the stormwater pond creates a unique vantage point to experience the landscape within a compact site. The landscape strategy preserved existing healthy trees to provide a foundation for the new planting and buffer the site from the adjacent parking lot and roadways, and also planted many new young native trees, selected to reflect the diversity of the Canadian Carolinian Zone. As these trees grow up around the elevated walkway, the trail will be surrounded by species which characterize this ecosystem, including indicator species like tulip trees, paw paws, sassafras, oaks and hickories. Through this design, the site has been transformed from a bland horticultural landscape typical of office settings, to a naturalized landscape that tunes into the unique setting within the surrounding ecosystem and reinforces the client’s commitment to promoting sustainability.