Halifax Harbour Festival, a land-based event,
is turned inside-out in this proposition by creating
a festival with the potential to symbolize both the
harbour and the regional city. The harbour is the arena,
while floating mobile platforms form the supplementary
infrastructure base of the event. Using development
levies from waterfront development, these platforms
create floating public spaces at new waterfront quays.
Annual voyage of the platforms heightens event pulsation
within the festival cycle of this public space.
The site of Halifax Harbour is regional in
scale, stretching 20 kilometers in length, uniting and
separating the surrounding urban communities. Its adjacent
waterfronts provide a suitable backdrop to this dynamic
and temporal landscape. The Halifax Harbour Festival
is a matrix of design scale events and activities distributed
as much as 15km apart. The scale of this landscape event
is challenging and very dynamic.
An active industrial harbour and a strong
cultural heritage combine to create marine-based working
systems and a land-based festival that seems to almost
neglect the potentials of the harbour as a public asset.
Due to potential land loss from waterfront development
and foreseen sea-level rise, encompassing the harbour
as a public event space works with the inevitable natural
and economic forces while better enhancing the principles
of event landscape planning and design researched at
the outset of the work.
Festivals, carnivals, and celebrations are
fundamental elements of urban life. These events allow
for moments of surprise and fantasy, eclipsing the ordinary
and mundane. These events may be temporal, but the effect
can be socially enduring, especially cyclical events
that are paradoxically organized yet ephemeral.
The research of either festivity or public
space has always been disassociated as two separate
fields of study. A memorable event is often strongly
associated with the particular place in which it is
held; therefore a strong relationship exists between
event and landscape. The temporality of an event is
juxtaposed with the persistence of the physical landscape
in which it occurs.
A successful “event landscape”
can also contribute to the image of the city’s
identity. The capacity for a landscape to adapt and
interact with the patterns of paradoxical urbanity,
and its relationship to the city’s image is explored
and a taxonomy of terms from theory are tested. The
resulting plan breaks the mold on waterfront promenades,
parkettes, café’s, seating, and multi purpose
spaces that can only afford a single fixed view or prospect
out to the water.
The study seeks to choreograph the Halifax
Harbour Festival programme, its public surfaces, and
support infrastructure to time and site activities normally
thought of as terrestrial in a way that augments conventional
“grounded” waterfront space. This is accomplished
in the plan by investing a portion of development benefits
in buoyant “landscapes” that are more sustainable
in the face of sea level rise and diminishing temporary
festival spaces (such as parking lots) as development
intensification takes place on prime waterfront properties.
Analysis and Site Findings
The site analysis examined the inventory and
nature of the experience afforded by the public spaces
that support the Halifax Waterfront Festival. The fundamental
finding was the discovery of just how few festival spaces
are at the edge of the water and how little the harbour
and the experience of the water figures into the specific
festival settings. Therefore, the proposition aims to
put more spatial experience of harbour into the harbour
festival. This is accomplished on two levels. The first
is an experiential sense of harbour and water as the
context or setting in all compositions of spatial experience.
The second approach is to augment the land based surfaces
that support the activity programme of the festival
by positioning some keynote activities on buoyant platforms
that can project activity into the surround of the harbour.
The analysis examined the phenomenological characteristics
of the experience of festival users and determined that
the festival spaces seldom make it possible for attendees
to experience the harbour itself and the prospect of
the cities surrounding the harbour from the water. It
was determined that this quality would meet the requirements
for differentiating everyday experience of the water’s
edge from that of engaging the water’s surface
as part of the spatial experience.
The study used advanced GIS urban visualization
and modeling to predict storm surge inundation from
sea level rise on downtown Halifax and determined that
all of the existing investments in fixed or terrestrial
landscape are subject to damage in the coming years.
Timelines and mappings were used to demonstrate
the planning and choreographing of events and platform
infrastructure across the harbour landscape and waterscape
to support the week of event making that is the festival
plan. Next, a timeline and plan for strategizing and
phasing in various possible futures was undertaken.
The plan’s strategy anticipates using
the economics and process of development to incrementally
fund a fleet of public space platforms. These platforms
provide permanent public space situated in optimal water
prospect locations in quays associated with each major
new development. Once a year, these platforms would
be reconfigured to create completely unique event spaces
whose context is only associated with the Harbour Festival.
Instead of designing a static space to
house a programme of event activities, this study looks
at a set of strategies distributed over time that support
the Festival in an ever changing harbour landscape.
Once a year, the festival city system intermingles with
the working harbour system to enhance the sense of event
landscape from that of the everyday public spaces of
Due to the predicted sea level rise, expensive
infrastructure investments in edge and festival supports
need to be able to float and to be redeployed across
and around the harbour (its not a fixed “grounded”
Diminishing space due to intensification
produces a condition of investment where development
benefits can be directed to fund a form of surface that
better engages the landscape and harbourscape. The buoyant
platform landscapes serve as the junction between landscape
and harbourscape. This is the essence of a harbour city
and its festival is situated at the crux of this interface.
The accompanying maps and diagrams choreograph
the movements in the space of the Harbour Festival and
their timing serves as a temporal “design”.
This project begins to push the boundaries
of landscape architecture to look at waterfront in a
more holistic way where the experience of water and
experience on water is seen as an important enhancement
of the traditional terrestrial infrastructure of waterfront
public space. The second and more nuanced aspect that
this thesis explores is the problem of differentiating
the everyday aspects of the design of a public space
from the specific moment based experience of an event
that is memorable and not confused with everyday experience.
This exercise presents the notion that this conundrum
can be broken by repositioning the floating elements
and surfaces of the buoyant waterfront landscape as
projections into the water and in some instances as
moving experiences out in the Harbour that only occur
when the festival is on. Yet the same landscape surfaces
and public space facilities “plug” into
the harbour quays as public spaces adjacent to new intensified
waterfront developments that reinforce the everyday