TD Outdoor Learning Centre

The TD Outdoor Learning Centre was designed with a long-term vision to blend natural materials in an architectural format with a heavy emphasis on structure to provide the framework of a three-season learning facility. “The outdoor school will set the foundation for hundreds of Calgary children to foster an appreciation of nature in our urban environment, and will lend to healthier attitudes towards nature among generations to come” - Mayor Nenshi.


An inspiring architectural balancing act built from its natural surroundings

Every great structure has to compliment the landscape, where each landscape shall hint to some order. The bird sanctuary was compromised during the flooding of 2013, along with some industry that had contaminated the site in its historical past. The soils were remediated, contaminants were stripped, and native plants and trees were reintroduced once the soils were repaired. Part of the learning component for the landscape was to promote the local poplar trees to germinate. This was made possible by simply planting branches from the existing site trees into dug holes and allowing them to germinate and root. These plantings are under continued observation. They complete the learning centre’s mission as a beacon for natural landscape and urban-built environment to coexist in harmony.

The installation was a careful balancing act of temporary support systems and precise joinery assembled in sequence. This structure was unstable until the final pieces were connected at the finale. Holding our breath for the entire installation, we were relieved the math worked. The structure stood with near a millimetre to spare.

Our goal was to accomplish the vision of the architect: “Have a structure that begged the users to ask the question: How was this structure even built - How is it even standing?”


The forests of Canada are truly unique. Interior BC Douglas Fir is among the most unique timber in the world. Its strength-to-weight characteristics are unparalleled, along with its unique colouring patterns caused by solar exposure. Spruce and Pine are also found within these same forests. The combination of these three species was a healthy contrast to the landscape that is notably Canada.

The use of heavy timber along with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) was chosen as the material composition since it could be locally sourced, along with its representation of natural construction solutions for this era. The using of heavy timber and CLT are considered to be symbols of the ‘Green Shift’. This green shift is an open dialogue with the planet to build more responsibly, and to look at our structures more holistically. Steel knife plates and extensive engineering were needed to bring the structure to reality where the CLT was the final keystone.

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