A state-of-the-art Garnica Duraply® canopy in downtown core

Architecture students address city's sense of safety through design using Garnica Duraply®.

For years, officials in Calgary, Canada have been concerned with improving the perceived sense of safety and vibrancy in the city’s downtown core. In 2020, the city partnered with the University of Calgary architecture school to develop a temporary, experimental installation specifically tailored to improve the perceived sense of safety and vibrancy in the area. Under the supervision of Professor Mauricio Soto-Rubio and robotics specialist Guy Gardner, a team of students designed and built a 70-foot long lightweight wooden canopy equipped with fully interactive 3D printed lighting fixtures.

The design approach was based on the premise that making a public space more inclusive and welcoming can improve social behavior. The canopy is part of a year-long study aimed at identifying the potential of fast-tracked, low-cost, architectural interventions to strategically improve the perceived sense of safety in urban settings. The City is conducting a survey to determine how the area was perceived before and after the completion of the design intervention.

Exterior millwork


Exterior millwork

The wooden canopy was built taking into consideration the extreme weather conditions, providing an extra degree of weather protection along the façade of the architecture school. The parallel-strand-lumber beams support a series of undulating slats made with Garnica Duraply®, a lightweight plywood made for long-term outdoor use. The 3/4-inch pressure-treated poplar plywood from Garnica is exceptionally resistant to external factors that can cause wear and tear. Ultra-durable, insect resistant and lightweight, it was the right plywood for this installation. The slats also adapt to the existing location and size of the urban trees present on site and them to continue to grow without interruption. These pieces were fabricated following a strict zero-waste policy where forms were always mirrored and nested in standard 4’x 8’ sheets sizes producing no material left over.

The team developed an innovative connection system, because of the temporary nature of the project that allowed the canopy to be installed on the building without permanently altering its façade. The custom-made steel brackets rely exclusively on friction without the use of mechanical or chemical anchors. This system facilitates the possibility for future designs to be attached to existing buildings in an attractive, seamless manner—independently of building protection requirements or heritage status.

The performance of Garnica Duraply® surpassed the original demands of the project; what was originally a one-year installation has become a two-year installation due to the outstanding stability and durability of the material. 

Project: 9 Block Project

Architects/Designers: Mauricio Soto-Rubio

Photo Credit: Neil Zeller, Riley Brant 

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