1. Landscape as Sculpture
Poetic expression is needed to stimulate an immediate sense of opportunity and respect within the boundaries of the Park. Two bold moves at the outset of the process will help define the richness of the site and the unique intersection of natural and cultural values.
A sculptural landscape installation will be designed to form an artificial forest, as the native forest begins to regenerate itself in the landscape. Marking a measure of rebirth within the forest, a whimsical installation of thousands of coloured rods winding through the pathways of the park will be aesthetically beautiful in their randomness and vastness. The rods, composed of a degradable material, will have increments marked on them, by which forest growth can be measured. As the growth surrounds and encompasses the rods over time, they will disappear into the forest and eventually become a part of the forest floor. The rods may be tied to donor/naming opportunities, as a way of making visible public generosity and commitment to the Park's regeneration.
At the same time, selective and controlled prescribed burns will become an animated and visually stunning installation in the park - a concert of fire - encouraging public involvement and awareness. Managed and strictly controlled by certified foresters, these burns will occur annually during the spring and will be integrated with a public awareness program and artistry. Ecologically, the burns cause biologically necessary change which creates habitat, eliminates pests, and improves soil quality. Aesthetically, the burns will become a dynamic and celebratory spring rite, creating patterns in the landscape, and making processes visible.
2. Forest Regeneration
Building on the rods and the burns, there will be a sustained and carefully managed process to regenerate a healthy native forest. A Forest Management Plan, identifying resources, opportunities, management, stewardship and long term sustainability. Classed as a spruce-fir-pine-maple-birch association located with the Atlantic Coastal Region, some areas within the Park have already begun early-successional deciduous growth post clean-up from the destruction of Hurricane Juan (2003). These pockets will be monitored and infill planted with a range of deciduous and coniferous species to enhance diversity and age structure, which will help mitigate against potential damage from future hurricanes and pest and diseases outbreaks. Remnant standing tree trunks, known as 'snags' will be left standing wherever safe to do so, as they provide important habitat, particularly as a cavity for nesting birds.
Successional growth throughout the formerly forested areas of the park will be encouraged, with efforts made to increase native tree species diversity. The concept of utilizing stock from local seed zones will be capitalized on in order to help produce long lived healthy stands of trees, to limit damage from pests and diseases, and to maintain a locally adapted gene pool. In carefully selected areas 'controlled' or 'prescribed burns' will be executed in order to restore and sustain the forest. Managed and strictly controlled by Professional Foresters, these burns will occur annually during the spring and will be integrated with public education. Where burning is not ecologically necessary or is too near development, scarification of the soil will take place to bring about the site conditions required for artificial regeneration of the forest. Aesthetically the burns will become a dynamic celebration. Public stewardship and tree planting programs will be designed to include the Park users in the process of regenerating their park. Large specimen trees may be brought in to highlight cultural features within the park, as well as define new view corridors of the ocean, which have been opened up as a result of the hurricane devastation.
3. Cultural Nodes
At the same time that the natural resources are being nurtured and revitalized, the cultural layers will be revealed and reanimated in subtle reinforcement of the site's rich history.
The Mi'kmaq community continues to have a cultural presence in the area despite centuries of denial and erasure of the community's history. There is an opportunity now to directly involve this community in the ecological and spiritual re-visioning of the Park. The ritual regeneration of the Park will build on an aboriginal appreciation of the land and our relationship to it.
The archaeological record of the Early Settlement and Military layers is discernable in fence lines, stone walls, foundation remains, batteries, barracks, earthworks, and view planes. These remnants, and some of the pathways that connect them, have shaped the physical landscape of the Park and can be integrated into the regenerated circulation patterns. Plantings can be used to capture the spirit of some of these earlier installations, providing a dynamic interpretation of history.
The Public Park layer will continue to be the dominant identity, and it can thrive with renewed attention to a number of related factors: the internal quality of the Park for visitors; the relationship of the Park to the Sea; and the integration of the Park within the larger metropolitan area.
For the internal quality of the visitor experience within the Park, we are recommending a hierarchy of pathways, made more poetic and providing links to the natural and cultural history of the Park. We see a more spiritual storyline, building not only on the visual qualities of the Park but the full sensory involvement with wind, air, fire and water. There is potential to celebrate different experiences when walking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, or winter skiing.
As an extension of the range of experiences, we see a more powerful connection between the Park and the Sea. Situated adjacent to the container shipping yard, and at the end of a peninsula with views of the active shipping harbour, the Park's important position in the context of Maritime landscape, and particularly the history of the City of Halifax is reinforced. There can be new view corridors, new recreational and relaxation nodes by the waterfront, and a new dynamic between the quiet of the Park and the active use of the waterway.
Within the larger metropolitan area, there is a wonderful opportunity to tie Park development into both the Urban Greenway project and the Seawall development project. There are potential connections to surrounding neighbourhoods and to the downtown that can spread the energy of the regeneration process to a wider area.
The final element of this integrated and sustainable approach to development will be a new architectural vocabulary to define key nodes and connectors within the Park. There is a need for a limited number of built structures within Point Pleasant that will make a contribution to the sustainable agenda and will also add to the natural beauty of the Park. These may include Gates, Visitor's/Interpretative/Entrance Pavilions, a Multi-Purpose Pavilion, Picnic Pavilions, Washrooms and perhaps an Open- Air Theatre Pavilion for Shakespeare by the Sea.
These modern architectural components will respond to the natural and cultural orders established within
the Park. Timelessness, rather than style, will be achieved by abstracting the simplicity of the military architecture. This sustainable approach uses local labour and materials (eg. Halifax Ironstone) to produce structures with low embodied energy. Combining energy-efficient construction with renewable energy systems can result in a net zero energy consumption building.
Weather, views, topography and cultural landscape together with a unique eco-system and specific user requirements will be key in developing an appropriate and identifiable architecture for Point Pleasant Park.(Janet Rosenberg + Associates)
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