Border Lands


Date: 2015

Status: Design Competition, Exhibition, Lecture, Panel Discussion

Location: Calgary, Canada

Program: Perimeter Green Reserve, Urban Extensions, River Diversion Channel

Exhibition: Cascina Triulza – Civil Society Pavilion Expo Milano 2015, Delugional Calgary - Urban Emergencies : Emergent Urbanism (UE:EU), Future Voice at 2015 RAIC / AAA Festival of Architecture Calgary, d.talks Lost Spaces Found C2 Gallery City Hall Calgary, d.talks Lost Spaces Found 7th Street and Centre Street LRT Platform Calgary

Lecture: Delugional Calgary - UE:EU

Publication: Urban Emergencies : Emergent Urbanism (UE:EU)

Team: Jessie Andjelic, Philip Vandermey, Justin Loucks, Nina Hitzler


Calgary is located in a beautiful wide-open prairie near the West edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Unfortunately, this endless plateau of grasslands has failed to constrain extensive low density growth, leading to many environmental, physical, economic, political and spatial issues. Although the municipal debate has turned to densification, the simple reality is that the city continues to grow inexhaustibly outwards. It has gotten to the point that starchitects, invited to design the most recognizable architectural icons of the city, have turned to a new façade style – a pattern of detached houses - in order to describe the identity of our city.


The greenlands that surround Calgary can be seen as lost spaces that were formerly or will imminently be overcome by the unrelenting assault on the periphery by armies of detached houses. While Renaissance Ideal Star Cities were designed to protect from hostile invaders, today the invasion threatens from inside city limits - perhaps the fortifications need to face the opposite direction!



Compared with other cities, Calgary lacks natural boundaries to contain expansion. The only successful limitation has been providing by the Tsuu T'ina Nation Reserve; this large rectangular plot on the West edge of the city has provided the immovable object to Calgary's unstoppable force.


Growth is currently being realized mostly through the outward extension of low-density neighbourhoods, made up primarily of detached houses, increasingly located far from the center.


Renaissance fortifications faced outwards to repel hostile the situation is reversed; with the assault coming from within, perhaps inward-facing fortifications are needed!





Border Lands is a proposal for a Perimeter Reserve to spatially contain Calgary while providing recreation spaces and flood resilience around the entire city.

Exploded Axonometric showing from top, Diversion Channel, Urban Extensions, Perimeter Park and Existing City.

Five high density Urban Extensions more than quadruple the density of Calgary while providing efficient below-grade transit and highways, connecting the city with nature.

A thriving and diverse Perimeter Park provides a naturalized recreational and ecological landscape that also serves as a wall against the outward expansion of the City. A strategic Diversion Channel irrigates the Perimeter Park whle also providing an alternative path for the Bow and Elbow Rivers in future flooding conditions.