For the world’s greatest cities, iconic parks are a turning point and a signature of forward-thinking urbanity and civic values. For a city to invest in the optimistic, multi-generational, and the democratic nature of a park, is to broadcast that a community cares about the past, present, future and also about one another. The flourishing of international park making in recent decades, has dramatically and tangibly improved the quality of life in the city, provided return on investments, and endowed the 21st century with landmark destinations, breathing new vibrancy into the heart of communities. The ambitions, thoughtfulness and care with which the Nepean Point project has emerged presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the chance to interpret the legacy of an landscape, represent culture and history for 21st century minds, and also the challenge of designing a park that is inventive, transformative and forward-thinking.
Our ambition for Nepean Point and Major’s Hill Park goes further than solving problems and delivering programs – we strive to dream bigger, to challenge the status quo.
Nepean Point and Major’s Hill Park lie less than a mile away from the heart of the city, but they feel a world away. Their sleepy atmosphere and remoteness is both an asset and an obstacle when the park is awoken by fireworks on Canada Day, when thousands of people suddenly inhabit the park simultaneously. To create Ottawa’s 21st century park we firmly believe that this beautiful place needs to be awakened and opened up to a new generation of visitors, without eliminating the unique atmosphere and qualities that make it such a magical place today. Connecting Nepean Point with its immediate neighbours across the different elevations within the valley announces the parks presence, inviting visitors to enter and ensuring the park is accessible to all.
A natural and meandering riverside path at the bottom of the Ottawa River embankment connects the park to the city via the Rideau Canal and locks as well as the Ottawa River and Rideau River further downstream. At the upper level, a meandering 7m wide promenade begins at the foot of Major’s Hill Park across the Confederation Boulevard to connect Nepean Point with Lady Grey Drive. This pedestrian and cyclist promenade marries the site with its surrounding neighbours but also unveils the majestic landscape in which Nepean Point sits. Opening up the site to everyone encourages both citizens and tourists to discover the park, promoting broader use of the site and helping to reconnect it to the city. Along the promenade information about the Capital Region’s history and cultural resources will be on display for visitors. The generous dimensions of the promenade will allow users to comfortably wander alongside one another. The simplicity of the promenade and wayfinding elements will provide clarity and readability and are implicit in the organization of the public space.
A land bridge connects Major’s Hill Park across Confederation Boulevard with Nepean Point. The form plays with the transformation of both the embankment and the adjacent limestone cliffs. Recalling the impact of post-colonial developments, the land bridge restores, in a contemporary way the Ottawa Valley, and wraps the escarpment into the center of the city. With its two cathedral inspired arches that span the Confederation Boulevard, the land bridge allows traffic to seamlessly pass through the site; one arch for cars and one for pedestrians and cyclists. The ceiling of the tunnel is cladded a mosaic that alludes to the historical and cultural context of the site. Pedestrian and cyclists traveling along Confederation Boulevard can access Nepean Point and Major’s Hill Park via the land bridge and may also connect to the Rideau Canal and locks via the Trans-Canada trail. Built from limestone and soil, and planted with trees and shrubs the land bridge creates a new habitat for fauna and flora and thus removes the ecological barrier currently created by St. Patrick Street.
Called Bluff Point, our design plays with the scenography and choreography of the surrounding context. The location of Nepean Point atop the escarpment of the Ottawa Valley with its majestic views of the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill and other iconic institutions offers an always inspiring vista, a place to encourage discovery of the culture and history or simply a beautiful spot to enjoy the sunset. The meandering promenade brings you to the balcony, the site of the former artillery cannons. The balcony wraps itself around the periphery of the escarpment. Part of the promenade howcases the majestic overview of the Ottawa skyline, linking Nepean Point to the landscape.
Slightly shifted to the north, the monument of Samuel de Champlain, which sits at the highest point of city and can be seen from all sides of the park, it is given its own prominent location at the outlook. The outlook functions like the other terraces that look out across the Ottawa River, and can be reached via an all-accessible pathway that wraps around its edge. Once at the outlook viewing platform, the monument is visible from all sides, an Instagram moment with the Ottawa landscape as a stunning backdrop. The walls of the outlook reflect the limestone escarpments of the Ottawa Valley. An alcove, with its mosaic ceiling inspired by the site’s rich past creates a moment of retreat, a point of reflection, and an intimate place to relax and enjoy the views towards the city and the landscape, Not to mention a welcome hideaway from bad weather conditions. A public bathrooms could be provided in this space if desired.
At the backside of the outlook, facing the National Gallery of Canada, a great lawn reveals itself. A gathering place, this open space offers multiple possibilities for activities, events and programming. On a day-to-day basis it functions as a calm grassy slope for people to lie on, protected from the wind, or a gentle hill to slide down during the winter season. On this lawn, an informal outdoor theater is positioned, a universally accessible space, with a green terraced landscape. The great sloped lawn will serve as the grassy multi-used space framed by the National Gallery of Canada. A looped promenade connects the great lawn to the promenade.
Thematic flower gardens connect Nepean Point across the land bridge with Major’s Hill Park, creating a colorful connection between the two places. These gardens will display plants that can inform and educate visitors, showcasing the different landscape typologies and raising awareness of native Canadian flora. These flower gardens will exhibit the NCC’s floral vision and provide year-round interest. Additional flower beds in the grassy areas of the park will host Ottawa’s spring tulip festival.
The entrance from Sussex Drive in between the Aga-Khan institute and the National Gallery, also known as the Winter Garden will reference the iconic Canadian birch forest. An art installation of closely planted birch trees will create a forest like effect, their white bark creating an intimate open and light place. Within this birch forest, places for outdoor art, temporary exhibitions and stage objects will be created. The simplification of the public space at Sussex Drive will create a formal entrance into Nepean Point. This birch forest will also serve as the backdrop for the great lawn, creating a green veil in front of these institutions that includes the Art Pathway. Here, the National Gallery has the opportunity to create an outdoor café or patio in Nepean Point.
Today Nepean Point is also regarded as an installation space by the National Gallery. We would like to extend this idea into the entire park, by creating a Sculpture Park. The sculpture park is part of the meandering promenade connecting Nepean Point with Major’s Hill Park. Art can be situated in the flower beds and alongside the path and terraces previously formed by the old rail tracks and will visually link Nepean Point with Chateau Laurier.
The Taiga Garden designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, is currently isolated from Nepean Point and Major’s Hill Park. Our proposal will see it increase in size, via the simplification of St. Patrick Street, creating a new green link between the plaza in front of the National Gallery and Nepean Point. All access towards the Gallery and the Great Hall remains open.
Together our collective vision for Nepean Point is to see it become both a contemplative and lively landscape – a place that unifies landscape and architecture with all the features of an accessible, connected and dynamic park. We envision a park that acts as a green canvas for the architecture, that invites people to immersive themselves in the culture and history of the place, and a landscape of unique elements all tied together by the breathtaking scenery and majestic views of the Ottawa Skyline.
Learn more about the project.