Ottawa, Ontario is the capital city of Canada and home to the nation’s oldest farmer’s market – ByWard Market. Since the market’s creation in the 1820’s, it has evolved through many physical forms, necessitated by growth at times and destruction by fire at others, always rebuilding and remaining a hub of commerce and entertainment in the community.
Almost 200 years after its inception, ByWard Market’s current-day streetscape at George Street Plaza had become an uninspired public space; a “shade-less concrete pad occupied by an ad-hoc assortment of vending structures and fast-food seating, and panhandlers”¹. The City of Ottawa embarked on the revitalization of the ByWard Market streetscape in 2016 as a first initiative within its civic improvement plan. For this project they selected Studio Red Landscape Architecture to create a new gateway into ByWard Market.
Studio Red’s principal, Kaja Cerveny OALA, CSLA, infused his design with seating in the shape of crates as a repeating element that referenced ByWard Market’s frenetic and enterprising past. In the Market’s heyday, crates of produce and products for sale would have lined the streets and been an unmistakable marker of commerce.
ByWard Market History
Established by Lt-Col. John By in 1826, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. The legendary builder of the Rideau Canal, Lt-Col. By himself laid out the street plan of the Market — designating George and York Streets to be extra wide to accommodate the horse-drawn carriages that brought foodstuffs to the market every day.²
Having worked with Maglin Site Furniture in the past, Mr. Cerveny knew he could specify standard products, such as café tables, chairs, benches and trash containers, as well as work with the creative team at Maglin to bring his custom crate design to life. The crates were designed as seating elements, produced in a variety of sizes and stacked in a stylized layout that evoked the feeling of an active marketplace. They were arranged to create a mix of seating surfaces (including 20% accessible seating) that would encourage the public to congregate in the plaza.
The crates were manufactured with a steel base, powder-coated in Corten (a warm rust coloured hue) and topped with durable Ipe wood. The design also incorporated LED lighting inside the crates which casts an inviting glow and welcomes the public to enjoy the ByWard Market plaza well after twilight. A few crates employ a unique misting feature which mimics fog rolling in from an imagined wharf. The misting feature also serves to cool down visitors, people and pets alike, on hot summer days.