Jericho Park Restoration, owned by the City of Vancouver and designed by Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture, has won the inaugural Urban Design Award celebrating excellence in the field of Landscape, Public Space and Infrastructure. The City of Vancouver’s very first Urban Design Awards ceremony was held on Monday the 15th of September at The VanDusen Botanical Gardens. This prestigious award is given to the project that achieves design excellence based on the following criteria: public realm (roads, parks, sidewalks, lanes) and pedestrian amenities; materials and issues of durability and detail; environmental performance; and contribution to placemaking, strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. The awards were initiated to recognize significant achievement in the Vancouver design and architecture community.
Vancouver’s spectacular shoreline is world famous for its beauty and scope with conditions ranging from the forested beaches at the University of British Columbia, to the industrial lands of East Vancouver, and the various residential communities in between. A waterfront stretching from Stanley Park to UBC provides near continuous access through these environments. Although this shoreline edge provides for a range of access and usage, it often constricts the intertidal zone between high and low tide to a small zone. As such, the majority of Vancouver shoreline could be considered an ‘urban condition’.
Jericho Beach Park is one of Vancouver’s most active and lively waterfronts. It is the site of festivals, the Jericho Sailing Centre, large open spaces, and, of course, public access to an extremely popular beach. The degradation of the historic Jericho Marginal Wharf spurred the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation to engage the public in a consultation process lasting several years. A diverse group of stakeholders were brought together, including neighbours, environmentalists, veterans and recreational enthusiasts (among others) to chart a new vision for the site.
Based on public feedback, workshops and design option explorations, Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture (in partnership with other Consultants and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation) developed a landscape plan that removed the wharf, restored the natural beach, improved beach access, acknowledged RCAF history, enhanced habitat and expanded upon useable park space.
Jericho Beach has been through many transformations, from tidal estuary, First Nations’ Settlement, logging camp, golf course, Royal Canadian Air Force station, site of the UN Habitat Conference, to the present day public beach. The degradation of the last standing historical remnant, the Marginal Wharf concrete deck structure, along with decomposition of the creosote piles, prevented any possibility for repair. The consultants were tasked with developing a design that remains sensitive to the past and celebrates the rich history of the site’s unique context while providing for a range of present-day uses.
Within its urban context, removal of the Jericho Marginal Wharf provided a rare opportunity to restore shoreline habitat along English Bay where natural shoreline vegetation was almost non-existent. Over 150 lineal meters of intertidal and upper beach habitat for invertebrates, foraging shorebirds, and spawning fish was restored, along with over 2000m2 of backshore vegetation composed of native beachgrass. Native shrub thickets and a marine riparian forest including over 100 native tree species were restored, with all significant trees being either protected or transplanted on-site.
Reusing old materials was integral to the restoration. Where practical, the removed timber, steel, and concrete of the Wharf was separated and recycled, including 100% of the concrete deck/slab/abutment and over 50% of all timber. The project also reclaimed 90% (3,440m3) of soil excavated during demolition.
The public is encouraged to interact with the restored Jericho Beach Park via numerous site improvements addressing public engagement and accessbility. Interpretive signage is strategically sited on the promontory view deck, which has etched into its surfacing eagle and fish silhouettes, developing the site’s sense-of-place and providing an identifiable node for gathering. Multi-use pathways provide safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians, while a gently sloping beach facilitates aquatic interaction, with a popular kayak and boat launch.
The initiation of the Urban Design Awards for Landscape, Public Space and Infrastructure marks an important recognition of landscape design’s impact on the modern city. The restoration of Jericho Beach celebrates the interface between the natural and urban environment. The project provides a legacy of ecological, social, and cultural benefits to the City of Vancouver as it continues to grow and develop into its full potential.