Students were required to pick one of nine real-life public gardens to study. The available options included world-famous sites like Bryant Park, in New York, and Kensington Gardens, in London. Noa chose Vancouver's Robson Square. "I'm from Vancouver myself, so I was somewhat familiar with the site already," she says.
The square, designed by Arthur Erickson and landscaped by Cornelia Oberlander, is a monumental public plaza, elevated above street level in one of the city's densest downtown areas. Its green spaces and promenades connect a collection of government buildings, including the glass-covered Law Courts building — which was, like the square itself, designed by Erickson. On the other end of the square is the Vancouver Art Gallery, an important civic institution.
During her site study, Noa noticed that some of the square's public amenities — particularly a rooftop garden — were not particularly accessible to pedestrians. From Smithe Street, which runs underneath the square, the access points were a pair of utilitarian concrete staircases. She also took note of a plan by the city of Vancouver to close off Robson Street, at the west end of the square, and transform it into a pedestrian plaza.
Her response was to design a new set of pedestrian access points that would make the square more inviting to passers-by, capitalize on the Robson Street closure, and do it all without violating the spirit of Erickson's original design. "The general idea was to close the loop and make the park feel less like it's several different pieces of landscape tied together," Noa says.
Noa's new site plan for Robson Square, with new stairs and pavement markings indicated by swirling lines.
Noa's new staircases have a sinuous appearance that distinguishes them from the right-angled forms around them. They draw the eye upward into the square, creating an air of intrigue that's absent from the existing structure. In Noa's plan, the curvature of the stairs would be matched by swirling patterns embedded in the pavement on Smythe and Robson streets. The swooping forms hint at the presence of Robson Square's reflecting pool, which is invisible to pedestrians from below.
Instructor: Sonja Vangjeli