Opened in July 2018, Willingdon Linear Park is a 1.2 km long urban greenway featuring a multi-use path set within a landscape of public art and sculpted green space. The park was designed by a collaborative team of landscape architects, engineers, artists, and architects. It demonstrates how multi-disciplinary collaborations can create innovative and engaging public open spaces that strengthen and connect communities.
Burnaby, British Columbia, the site of the park, is evolving from a suburb of Vancouver into a city in its own right. Willingdon Avenue was an inhospitable arterial roadway that punctured the surrounding neighbourhood. The park was created when the municipality allocated the land for a greenway instead of expanding the roadway.
The park design, initially led by landscape architects and civil engineers, provides facilities to pedestrian, cyclist and public transit users, to foster alternative neighbourhood transportation. The design coalesced as a braided path winding around natural and urban features. The braiding references the site’s natural history within the Fraser River watershed and the multicultural fabric of the surrounding neighbourhood. The pathway meanders around sculpted berms, existing mature trees and through a new urban forest.
The park offers safe and inviting facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users. A wide pathway, located away from the street edge, provides safe two-way multi-modal traffic. It links once separated neighbourhoods, allowing for a steady stream of strollers, joggers, dog walkers, and recreational cyclists. It is made of a hard-wearing asphalt, bound and defined by white concrete edge bands. The white banding provides a striking visual accent through the landscape. White concrete is carried into the park’s other landscape features, including sculpted retaining and seating walls. All paths and pocket parks are universally accessible and well-lit for safe day-night use.
The park is built on a deep and expansive bed of growing medium that will allow trees in the new urban forest to reach significant size. 198 largely native, semi-mature trees were installed along the greenway; they are complimented by locally sourced boulders and stone paving, wood at benches and platforms, and a continuous lawn carpet.
In 2016, a collaborative team of artists and architects joined to integrate 19 functional public art installations that furthered the place-making ambitions of the project. The park pathway, public art, landforms, custom furnishings and paving bands weave together, giving the site a distinct, cohesive and expressive design – transforming Willingdon Avenue into a cultural landscape.
The park’s landscape features are complemented by Art Screens and Beacons, which establish a linear rhythm and further articulate the park’s identity. The Beacons assist with wayfinding while the Screens provide privacy to adjacent residences. The multi-coloured patterned art screens extend the park’s braided and undulating form vertically. A colour narrative evolves over the length of the park to unify the public art elements. The pallet shifts from deep, cool hues at the north end, to softer, warmer tones, and then back again. It alludes to the shades of the surrounding landscape and coastal weather patterns.
Two pocket parks punctuate the greenway and offer contrasting experiences. The Parker Street Park is a gathering place and home to a social sculpture called “The Eddy.” This undulating form – at once a hammock, a play structure, and a social hub – sits atop a patterned rubber surface of concentric circles. The Eddy features a webbing of hand-assembled steel core rope, inviting groups to gather, people to recline, and kids to climb. Drawing inspiration from swirling river eddies, this dynamic form invites informal interaction from people of all ages.
In contrast, Charles Street Park has a more naturalistic and contemplative character. The space is defined by an oval multi-use lawn, an embracing ring of trees and an ascending water feature. “The Delta,” with its array of steel tubes resembling river tributaries, takes inspiration from the Fraser River watershed. The sculpture also creates a visual and aural screen for the park, masking the sound of road traffic with cascades of water. The Delta incorporates water rushing from curvilinear steel pipes onto hand built stainless-steel “rocks” and through a slip-proof stainless-steel basin grating.
“People are out with their kids or walking their dogs and starting up conversations,” says Paul McDonell, City of Burnaby Councillor and Chair for its Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission. “We’re seeing more and more people using the park. The side effect is a healthier community, a liveable community.”
Willingdon Linear Park weaves together landscape and art, form and function, nature and the city. It forms a new transportation, cultural and social path that runs through the neighbourhood and beyond.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (architects and landscape architects):