As a city dominated by winter for several months of the year, it is important to recognize the influence that this season has on the design and use of Ottawa's public realm.
Throughout the winter months, crisp, sunny days offer wonderful opportunities for planned outdoor activities, public gatherings and informal meetings. The early onset of winter nights creates opportunities to illuminate the city in creative and festive ways. Offering wonderful settings within which to stage appropriate programming is a critical component of creating a desirable winter destination.
The City and the NCC have undertaken many initiatives to capture the unique opportunities offered by the winter environment and to celebrate the many varied experiences of northern living. From a programming perspective, the City, the NCC and the local community embrace the challenges of winter conditions in Canada's Capital. Ottawa has successfully marketed itself as a winter destination through such events as the thriving Winterlude festival, the branding of the Rideau Canal as the "world's longest skating rink", and the city's' charming winter lights display. Clearly, the City should continue to build on these admirable successes.
To help reinforce the success of existing activities and provide an improved setting for future activities, the following winter-specific urban design recommendations are provided:
- The City should explore and demonstrate the benefits of winter city designs as it furthers its objectives to encourage intensified mixed-use development.
- To avoid excess shading over the street and sidewalk areas, accommodate taller structures on the north side of streets. The stepping down of structures reduces shading. Buildings massing should create minimum shade onto open spaces that are used in wintertime.
- Where appropriate, overhangs should be used to provide additional shelter, and covered entrances should protect from both snow and wind.
- Generous building setbacks allow for snow storage in the winter and planting in the summer.
- Wide, clutter-free sidewalks make snow removal easier. Where possible, raised planters should be avoided and street trees planted at grade, with site furniture strategically placed.
- Due to shorter winter days, providing suitable lighting at the pedestrian scale as part of public works and private developments is an essential component of a winterised public realm.
- Seasonal feature lighting is one of the most effective ways of creating a special winter atmosphere. Ensure that public works projects allow for temporary or permanent specialty lighting.
- Open space design needs to be adaptable for all four seasons. In major park spaces, design for winter uses with wind screens, durable landscaping and conifer planting.
- Smaller urban parks should be sheltered by buildings and open to the south, where possible, for maximum sun exposure and to encourage year-round outdoor use.
- To moderate the impacts of winter weather, connect pedestrian spaces with elements such as treed arcades or awnings. Where possible, parks and pedestrian pathways should be located on the sunny side of streets and buildings.
- The public realm, open spaces, private development and parking areas should be designed to accommodate interim snow storage.
- Paving materials, and site furniture should be durable enough to withstand the harsh impacts of winter snow management and the corrosive effect of salt, while being safe, slip proof, and easy to maintain.
Plant conifer trees to shelter pedestrian areas from prevailing winter winds and to provide visual screening at key locations. Trees reduce wind speeds, delineate spaces and provide safe separation between cars and pedestrians. Select salt resistant species for street tree planting.