A journey back in time

Behind-the-scenes look at Emergent


Recently named a 2020 Merit winner for a prestigious CODAaward in the landscape category, the already-iconic Emergent artwork located outside of the unique 31-story Edison office tower on the corner of 9th Avenue and 1st Street S.W. started as a collaboration between Heavy Industries and Aspen Properties, owner and manager of the property

“They knew they wanted it to reflect some of the themes that they were playing around with in the architecture of the renovation, which was focused on the railway and industrial railway aesthetic. But beyond a few initial concepts at the time, there was nothing concrete,” says Connor Hayduk, Design and Development Lead – Project Development at Heavy Industries.

How did it go from abstract to what would become Emergent?

“It wasn’t a straight line,” says Hayduk, noting the benefit of working directly with Aspen was the ability to very quickly get a clear sense on their vision.

Capturing the vision

After a series of detailed meetings to capture what Aspen was looking for, Heavy sought out an artist to help bring that vision to life. 

“We were ultimately looking to provide the best value to Aspen by creating something truly unique, and the best way to do that was to collaborate with someone to get a different perspective,” says Hayduk.

Heavy ended up bringing Jill Anholt on board. Hayduk said he had worked with the Vancouver-based visual artist several times previously, and felt she would be able to provide an interesting interpretation of the theme Aspen was after with The Edison.

Unique design

After a couple of different iterations, the stakeholders settled on a final design to serve as a monument that (quite literally) reflected the city’s history.

“Some people might not notice this immediately, but we strategically positioned pieces of Emergent at an angle so that it reflects the Calgary Tower back to the viewer,” says Hayduk, noting they went through a whole material study to make sure the angles would line up properly.

Meanwhile, red LED lighting was woven through the IPE boards (a form of Brazilian hardwood) to evoke themes of CP Rail. Kitty corner to the Edison is the historic Royal Canadian Pacific station, while across the street is the storied Fairmont Palliser.

One of the more interesting aspects was the use of rail. The original design called for bent rail that would twist and rise from the ground. However, the brittle nature of the material made bending unfeasible.

Instead, Heavy cast parts of the rail to form the complex curvatures, and then custom machined the IPE boards to provide a smooth and seamless transition at each stage.

Keys to success

Commissioned in September 2018, the project took about a year to complete. In addition to the advantage of collaborating with a world-class artist such as Anholt, Hayduk says having a direct line to the client while also a bird’s eye view of the entire project saved both time and money.

“By having a lot more control of the process, it really allowed us to manage it in a way that added value to the owner because we have significant experience in developing projects like this,” he says.

Learn more about Heavy’s approach to building world-class art, architecture and placemaking. Connect with us to start the conversation.