Featured Projects

Fort Needham Memorial Park

Project: Fort Needham Memorial Park
Location of the Project: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Client: Halifax Regional Municipality 
Date the Project was Completed: 2017
Company: Fathom Studios 
Geographical Coordinates: 44.651070 N  -63.582687 W
Member(s) of APALA Who Worked on the Project: Devin Segal, Sandra Cooke, Rob LeBlanc, Katherine Peck 

On the morning of December 6, 1917, the French ship Mont Blanc, carrying 3000
tonnes of American explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in Halifax
Harbour, causing an explosion more powerful than any other man-made explosion
before it. The blast killed almost 2000 people and injured 9000 more, and left the
physical fabric of the city of Halifax changed forever. Rebuilding efforts commenced
almost immediately, and Fort Needham Park was envisioned as a central part of the
revitalization of the city’s north end. The park, however, was never completed according
to any cohesive plan, and as a result, became a collection of underused recreational
facilities and steep and disconnected pathways atop a hill that lacked presence and
visibility along the surrounding streets. While the park was dedicated in 1959 as a
memorial park to the victims of the Halifax Explosion, the park never properly fulfilled
this role, other than to host an annual ceremony on the anniversary of the event, and to
house a memorial Bell Tower, constructed in 1984.

The 2014 Park Masterplan, and the subsequent Phase 1 detailed design and
implementation by Fathom Studio (formerly Ekistics Planning and Design and
Form:Media), sought to re-tool the park to finally realize its potential as both a
commemorative site and a neighbourhood park that would meet the needs of
its surrounding community. At the same time, our main objective was to provide
information about the explosion without detracting from the everyday use of the park
by the community. The key to realizing this objective lay in integrating interpretive
information into the landscape, to be experienced by visitors each in their own way,
and to inspire further investigation. The design team intentionally avoided traditional
interpretive panels in favour of experiential graphic design elements embedded in
elements like site furniture, steps, handrails, retaining walls, which would be part of the
site design in any case. The use of weathering steel and riveted connections speaks
to the construction of two ships that collided in the harbour and the bent and twisted
metal that rained down on the city.

The project was led by Landscape Architects and is a successful example of
collaboration between various disciplines including experiential graphic designers,
lighting designers, arborists, archaeologists, and engineers. From the layout and
detailing of park pathways and furnishings, to the selection of materials, the
interdisciplinary team coordinated on each decision, resulting in a design that is
thoughtfully executed and effective in meeting its key objectives. The park now
provides places for gathering, contemplation, and ceremony, as well as for play,
dog-walking, picnicking, and walks in the park. The design of the park finds a way to
tell the story of a tragic event while still contributing positively to the daily life of the
community without turning the park experience into a sombre one. Rather, the design
of the park to allow for daily life is a celebration of the resilience of community, and the
city that rebuilt after the blast, over a century ago.

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Fort Needham Memorial Park

Fathom Studios

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