sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 Rainbow Park

A vibrant and inclusive space in downtown Vancouver

Bridges & Urban Infrastructure

DIALOG worked closely with the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation over several years to design this unique and highly innovative park, setting a new direction for park design in the city. It emerged out of a fulsome dialogue between stakeholder groups, municipal government, and the designers that involved numerous engagement and needs assessment exercises. The end product is a dynamic concept that will serve downtown residents and visitors. This new park brings green space to the city centre, as well as providing a place for people to gather, engage in social activities, enjoy an on-site café, and take in their surroundings from the pedestrian bridge.

This is the first park in Vancouver to be gifted a name by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7, meaning ‘rainbow’, was selected because the park site was previously “a marsh where the sun and mist would form rainbows.” Moreover, the name is also a nod to the area’s LGBTQ history.

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Location
Vancouver, BC
Client
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Completion
2022
Collaborators

AES Engineering
Smith Bros. & Wilson
WSP

DIALOG Services

Landscape Architecture
Planning & Urban Design
Architecture
Mechanical Engineering
Structural Engineering

Kafka’s Coffee Roasters is situated at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets, attracting considerable foot traffic and bringing that corner of the park to life.

The café provides a welcoming spot for people to relax and enjoy their surroundings, while the urban plaza was designed to be adaptable to both formal or informal activities.

The middle terrace is a children’s play area that effectively utilizes the topography with a variety of play elements. Located at the center of the park site, parents have eyes on their children with uninterrupted view-lines from the adjacent park areas.

The team’s landscape architects worked to bring as much greenery as possible to the space, and incorporated the existing mature trees on site and native plants into their design.

The park comes to life in the evening, thanks to lighting installations throughout. The space is vibrant, electric and captivating, attracting both locals and tourists.

The Team

…parks are expected to serve an ever-changing suite of needs. DIALOG has been able [come up with] a design that will serve the city for the coming decades.

Tiina Mack, Manager of Park Development, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
An elevated walkway

In the original design, an elevated walkway clearly defined the nature of the project, as did the sky frames and terraced spaces for a variety of user groups.

In the heart of downtown

The park, which was a parking lot for over a decade, is located in Vancouver’s downtown core. The area was once home to small shops but is now surrounded by condos and office towers.

Defining the park

Engaging the community was the first step to creating the new park. The team had to determine diverse residents’ and stakeholders’ wants and needs for this important community place.

Pop-up engagement

The project team hosted several participation events over the life of the process, including a “pop-up park” to capture the input from passersby, and an interactive sandbox to capture the input from children. The end result was three different design concepts for the new park.

Taking stock of resources

A part of the planning process was looking at what facilities were already in place, including the proximity of other downtown parks.

Early concept model

This early model of the park illustrates some of the abstract concepts that came into play, including a path running from one end to the other.

Making the slope work

The site slopes more than 15′ from the north to south end, posing some interesting challenges for the design team. They addressed the slope with three flat terraced spaces.

Three sets of users

An upper terrace for socializing, a middle one as a children’s play area and a lower civic plaza all work together to make the new park a perfect urban gathering place.

Walking above it all

The elevated walkway is designed to carry people above the new park from one end of the site to the other, and provide a unique perspective over the park and on the downtown streetscape.

Sky frames for artwork

The sky frames march diagonally down the spine of the park. They allow for the framing of art pieces, banners, or lighting installations and provide a sense of ritual and celebration.

Stacking the layers

This model shows the different layers that make up the new park, along with their relationship to one another within the confines of the park boundaries. It also shows the evolution of the park from blank canvas to finished concept.

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