The City of Edmonton has launched an international contest for a series of multi-unit residential infill developments near Spruce Avenue
The ‘Missing Middle’ competition invites teams of architects and developers to draw up medium-density residential concepts for five infill sites earmarked for new housing to meet the city’s rapidly growing population.
The winning team will be offered to buy the plots and realise their scheme. The project aims to boost awareness of medium-density development within Edmonton and encourage more delivery of this much-needed housing type across the historic Canadian city.
According to the brief: ‘The challenge is to submit an innovative design that is not only thoughtful of neighbourhood context, but also economically feasible, responds to local market conditions and advances the design ethic for infill in Edmonton.
‘The winning team will be given the opportunity to purchase the site and build their winning design, conditional upon rezoning approval. The finished development will be used to inspire innovative “missing middle” infill development in other parts of the city.’
Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta in the west of Canada’s central prairies. It has a population of around 1 million residents and is an important municipal and infrastructure hub for the region.
The city is home to the iconic Muttart Conservatory – designed by UK architect Peter Hemingway – which features a group of large glass pyramid greenhouses containing tropical plants and providing a focal point for the Edmonton’s public gardens.
The latest competition focuses on Spruce Avenue which has witnessed a surge in development over recent years – including the Blatchford zero-carbon estate, the Norwood care centre and a streetscape redesign.
The competition jury will feature an architecture critic, a town planner, and four Canadian architects including Gene Dub, who designed Edmonton’s landmark 1993 City Hall. The overall winner, to be announced 29 May, will receive $8,000 CAD, while a second prize of $5,000, third prize of $3,000 and people’s choice prize of $500 will also be awarded.
The registration deadline has been extended to 22 February and submissions must be completed by 11:59pm local time (MST/UTC-7) on 1 March.
How to apply
Q&A with Missing Middle Infill Design Competition
The organisers discuss their ambitions for the competition
Why are your holding an international contest for new multi-unit, medium-density housing in Edmonton?
Hosted by the City of Edmonton and endorsed by The Alberta Association of Architects, the ‘Missing Middle’ Infill Design Competition features five City of Edmonton owned parcels of land up for development at the northeast corner of 112 Avenue and 106 Street in the Spruce Avenue neighbourhood.
The city is soliciting proposals from multidisciplinary teams of architects and builders/developers from across Canada and abroad to design a multi-unit, medium-density housing development on these lots. This type of medium scale housing, which falls between single family homes and high rises, is commonly referred to as the ‘missing middle’ because it has been largely absent from urban streetscapes across Canada, including Edmonton.
Launched in 2016, the Edmonton Infill Design Competition provides an opportunity to encourage productive conversations about infill, help the public and development community envision what’s possible for infill design, and inspire builders and architects to create out of the box designs that enrich our city. The competition’s overarching goal is to showcase improved aesthetics of the community and how good designs can bring neighbours together.
The 2016 competition sought ideas for low-density residential infill on a hypothetical site, showing how infill could add to the character of our mature and established neighbourhoods. The 2019 competition focuses on demonstrating how medium-density ‘missing middle’ housing can be not only thoughtful of neighbourhood context, but also economically feasible, respond to local market conditions and advance the design ethic for infill in Edmonton.
The winning team for the 2019 competition will be given the opportunity to purchase the site and build their winning design, conditional upon rezoning approval. The finished development from this competition will be used to inspire innovative ‘missing middle’ infill development in other parts of the city.
A new City Plan is underway to articulate Edmonton’s future growth strategy for 2 million people. As we grow into a city of over 1 million people and towards a metropolitan centre of 2 million, we must contemplate the kind of urban places that are needed for us to stay prosperous, healthy and climate resilient. A big part of this change will be about increasing housing choices, particularly how we can welcome more people into our older neighbourhoods by integrating more housing in the ‘missing middle’ range.
The 2019 competition is an opportunity to test innovative new ‘missing middle’ housing forms that will be integral to the future of Edmonton. We are excited to see what builders, developers and architects come up with together, pushing the envelope for design and building creativity.
Edmonton is a growing city that is seeing investment increase significantly. Local, national and international participation only punctuate the investment potential of the city, and can bring and source inspiration and best practice from around the world. Since launching, we have seen submissions come in from all parts of Canada: Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg. We also received one registration from as far as London, UK.
An esteemed esteemed national panel of architects, planners, and architectural critics will review all eligible submissions for their design innovation, creativity and excellence, awarding the top 3 proposals with case prizes:
- Talbot Sweetapple, Architect (Halifax, NS)
- Alex Bozikovic, Architectural Critic (Toronto, ON)
- Hazel Borys, Planner (Winnipeg, MB)
- Renée Daoust, Architect (Montreal, QC
- Gene Dub, Architect (Edmonton, AB)
Infill isn’t new to Edmonton, but the amount of redevelopment has been growing significantly in recent years. At the City of Edmonton, we want to make sure it’s done in a way that’s best for our city, both today and in the future. Design competitions are one approach, along a continuum of approaches, to spur design culture in a city.
In 2013, we launched a project called Evolving Infill. From this, we created our Infill Roadmap: 23 actions that comprised the City’s work plan for advancing infill development. Today, most of that Roadmap has been completed, but there’s still more to do.
In July 2018, we adopted Infill Roadmap 2018, which contains a set of 25 additional actions to enable and encourage infill, and welcome more people and new homes into Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods. The Edmonton Infill Roadmap 2018 takes a strategic focus on the ‘missing middle’ - multiunit, medium-density housing such as row housing, and low-rise apartments.
The competition is part of Action 5 on the Infill Roadmap: Partner to pilot innovative housing. In the coming years we expect to see continued improvements in the design, efficiencies, and diversity of infill homes. We’re excited to see how the innovations and best practices that come out of this competition will improve the quality of infill development in Edmonton.
What is your vision for the new ‘missing middle’ homes?
The term ‘missing middle’ refers to multi-unit housing that falls between single detached homes and tall apartment buildings. It includes row housing, triplexes/fourplexes, courtyard housing and walk-up apartments. These housing forms are considered ‘missing’ because there has been a decline in their development in recent decades in many cities and they were never widely developed in Edmonton.
Encouraging this type of housing is essential for welcoming new people and homes into older neighbourhoods and creating complete communities with a variety housing options for people at every stage of life and income level.
It will be interesting to see what builders, developers and architects propose for the site, and particularly, the range of aesthetics and amenities they rationalize. The criteria that will be used to judge and evaluate the submissions are robust and clear, yet offer teams with an opportunity to submit outside-the-box ideas - to be inspired by Edmonton, to inspire us, and to innovative something new and something we haven’t seen before.
Five City-owned parcels of land are up for redevelopment. The existing single-storey bungalows on these parcels were built in the 1950s. With LRT and local amenities nearby, the land represents a significant opportunity to invest and innovate. The challenge is to add value to the land and to the neighbourhood, by designing a multi-unit housing proposal that will not only work within the existing neighbourhood, but also respond to local market conditions.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
This is an open competition endorsed by the Alberta Association of Architects. Interdisciplinary teams consisting of an architect and a builder/developer are invited to submit proposals, as medium-density housing forms require architectural services. Architects outside of Alberta are highly encouraged to apply and form teams, with local builders/developers.
This is an anonymous competition. Entrants who engage with or contact any of the jurors during the competition will be disqualified. City of Edmonton staff, jurors, and any employee, partner, or associate thereof are ineligible to compete.
The competition conditions require any of the four different team approaches:
1. Developer and architect
2. Builder and architect
3. Developer, builder, architect
An architect is required because of the regulated exclusive scope of practice in the Architects Act. The team makeup will be at the discretion of the competition applicant, and will need to demonstrate how they can achieve the competition criteria as outlined.
The Alberta Association of Architects (AAA) has carefully reviewed the terms of this competition and has endorsed it as a single-stage open competition. The Association is very enthusiastic that the City is holding a competition in order to select a design for this important residential infill project. Our members, and architects from across the country, are encouraged to participate. This competition represents a precedent-setting opportunity to convene builders/developers and architects together to propose new and exciting ‘missing middle’ housing forms.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
We are constantly exploring ways to best engage and collaborate with the design community to better advance the community. Design competitions are often pursued by various business areas within the City of Edmonton, and are a useful tool in cultivating innovative design ideas. Their application, however, depends on the design question and the context.