The Leaf at Assiniboine Park by

2024 Public Projects / Canada / Built in 2022 /

Established in 1904, Assiniboine Park is one of Manitoba’s most cherished urban greenspaces. It welcomes over a million visitors a year to 280 hectares of greenspace interlaced with zoological, recreational, and botanical wonders. The Park’s recent renaissance began with HTFC’s 100-year Framework Plan and Governance Study, completed in 2006, which led to the establishment of an independent park governance body called the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC). Over the past decade, HTFC worked closely with the APC to re-imagine 24 hectares in the prominent southeast corner of the park into ‘The Leaf’: a world-class tapestry of forward-thinking horticultural gardens, naturalized greenspaces, and interior botanical biomes, inspired by Winnipeg’s diverse communities.

Landscape architects held a leading role in the development of The Leaf, working with over 100 prominent architects, engineers, scientists, artists, and constructors as well as dozens of passionate community stakeholder groups. Starting with a bold comprehensive plan, the team respectfully reconfigured an aging formal garden into a progressively programmed showcase for 21st century landscape architecture.

Celebrating All Voices
HTFC and APC undertook a five-year engagement process for this project, connecting with Manitobans of various ages, genders, spiritual beliefs, and cultural backgrounds, to understand how plants and nature influence identity. APC bravely embraced the idea of creating an Indigenous Peoples Garden as part of the project, and HTFC facilitated adding Indigenous designers and Knowledge Keepers as key collaborators to the team. Dedicated conversations, vision quests, and ceremonies with Manitoba’s First Nations and Métis community members including Elders and youth, unearthed layers of history and meaning on the land. This was a critical step in moving Winnipeg’s largest public park from colonial notions of ownership toward a place where all voices are heard, reflected, and celebrated.

Design & Technical Innovation
This project creates a place for people to share stories and experiences across generations, forging new connections through activities rooted in foods, medicine, art, music, and so much more that plants inspire. With 67,000 plants and over 5,000 diverse cultivars, The Leaf is organized as a collection of distinct interior and exterior ‘gardens’ that can be enjoyed as single destinations or a series of interconnected adventures. The iconic new conservatory is situated on a prominent sightline to maximize solar access and create a vista that pays homage to the park’s Olmstedian roots. This bold layout required converting a major access road to a pedestrian promenade that serves as the key circulation and contemplation artery. The Kitchen, Performance, Sensory, and Seasonal Gardens feature along this promenade. Surrounding this, the more naturalized Indigenous Peoples Garden and Grove Arboretum flow to existing park edges and great lawns.

Stakeholder consultation informed programming and interpretation plans for each distinct landscape within the site. Interactive and accessible design tools like digital models and clay sculpting allowed APC to fully participate in shaping the feel and function of each space, and empowered the internal horticultural team with a sense of ownership as they implemented the ambitious softscapes. The project team included expertise in ethnobotany, ecology, quarrying, water features, green walls, and more, leading to innovations including Canada’s tallest indoor waterfall and longest green wall, integrated rainwater harvesting, native seed propagation, parametric metal art fabrication, and novel root heating systems.

The Future
The Leaf and Gardens are remarkable for the diversity and quality of experiences they offer, their inspired programming, and the deep resonance they instill in residents and visitors regardless of culture or age. Accordingly, the site has tripled its expected membership and attendance in its first year of full operation and more than doubled the anticipated vegetation growth rate in the interior and exterior gardens, exceeding the most optimistic projections. These successes are driven by the leadership of the facility’s landscape architect, dedicated special projects and programs funding, and long-term partnerships with Winnipeg’s arts and cultural institutions. The Leaf and Gardens play a critical role in transferring resilient and sustainable landscape approaches into public consciousness in a way that encourages mainstream adoption. It is a place where all people can see themselves in the landscape no matter where they come from, linking their cultural roots to their evolving Canadian identities. Looking forward, The Leaf and its landscapes are designed to embrace growth and change – encouraging spaces, activities and exhibits to evolve, new programs to emerge, and new ideas to flourish.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Conservatory by KPMB Architects, Architecture49

Location: 145 The Leaf Way, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3P 2N5

Design year: 2019

Year Completed: 2022


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