A city is a system with countless moving parts. Every change affects the people who have built their lives within it: where sunlight falls, how traffic flows, what neighbourhoods feel welcoming. Even in more remote areas, a building that successfully transforms its site can breathe new life into an entire district. Architects don’t just build environments for us to live in now—they also shape the way our cities evolve well the future.
At the south end of Halifax’s storied waterfront, across the street from the Discovery Centre, local firm Fowler Bauld & Mitchell is updating the headquarters of energy company Emera—and so helping to shape the destiny of the entire district. “Pier 21 has been up and coming for the last few years,” says Sheena Moore, architect in charge of the Emera project at FBM. “You’ve got NSCAD University there now, the farmer’s market, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration. The Emera project is helping to solidify that area as a part of the downtown.”
To accomplish this, FBM will completely overhaul the four-decade-old building, recladding it and adding new landscaping. Most significantly, the redesign includes a pedestrian walkway connecting it to its neighbour, and to the boardwalk.
“It used to be considered the far reaches of downtown,” agrees George Cotaras, FBM’s president. “But now, downtown has stretched south, all the way down to the Pier 21 area.” Even the residential neighbourhood to the west is seeing growth, which makes it crucial that Emera’s rejuvenated headquarters serve as an effective gateway to this burgeoning district. “Part of our role as architects is to examine the urban design context and see how we can make it better,” he says. “A good building enhances everything around it too, and makes our community better.”