By CLINT BUEHLER
ST. ALBERT, AB – Renowned Metis architect Douglas Cardinal has been given special recognition by St. Albert City Council, as the building he designed here receives municipal historic resource recognition.
At a special council meeting on the front plaza of St. Albert Place attended by council members past and present, provincial representatives and the architect himself, council approved a bylaw to designate the building a municipal historic resource.
Council also designated June 12 as Douglas J. Cardinal Day.
When conceiving St. Albert Place, which opened 25 years ago, Cardinal was faced with the unique challenge of designing a structure that would house community, arts, cultural and governmental components in a confined space tightly situated between a busy downtown street and the river parkland area. The building needed to include Council Chambers, administrative offices, a museum, a performance theatre, a public library, and arts and crafts facilities.
Ultimately, Cardinal incorporated his trademark curvilinear design to create a building that matched the character of the landscape, included all the required components and provided pedestrians with a promenade leading onto trails situated along the river’s edge.
Cardinal is known for designing curved interiors and exteriors reflective of the rolling landscapes around Red Deer, Alberta, where he grew up, evident in the circular foyers and staircases and the winding road leading up to St. Albert Place.
St. Albert Place was the first building in the world designed by computer, and Cardinal chuckled recalling that the computer used was the size of a refrigerator and cost $250,000. The building itself cost just under $20 million.
The computer generated curvilinear design would become the template for such future masterpieces as the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, PQ and the American Museum of the American Indian on The Mall in Washington, DC. Among Cardinal’s other designs are St. Mary’s Church in Red Deer, Grande Prairie Regional College in Grande Prairie, AB and the Telus World of Science in Edmonton.
St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse says the building has become “the heart of our downtown, a source of pride for our community and is essentially a work of art in itself that so many have come to appreciate—and a great many more will in the years to come.
“It is an iconic building in the region and we must maintain it and preserve it.”
Cardinal, now 75, has received numerous awards and honours throughout his career, including 11 doctorates, the title of World Master of Contemporary Architecture in 2006 and the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award in 2007. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001.
“I’m very honoured that the City of St. Albert has taken these steps to preserve this building for the community,” Cardinal said. “It’s wonderful to see that today, 25 years after its grand opening, the building has truly become what it was meant to be—a gathering place for the community where residents and government can meet, learn and grow.”