In 2016, RHA+D, along with a multi-disciplinary team of urban planners, engineers, and economic and tourism experts embarked on the expansive task of re-designing the visitor experience of Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy, home to the highest recorded tidal range on earth. The Fundy Gateway's site is located along the Salmon River in Truro, NS where a tidal bore rushes through twice daily as part of the powerful Fundy tidal cycle. Our design process went hand-in-hand with intense research, taking cues from both the natural and cultural richness of the area in order to highlight the unique connection that exists between the sea and the sky.
The project consists of one main building, an activated site plan, and two smaller buildings meant to shelter the active outdoor space from the sharp winds that exist on the site. The primary structure which will house an information centre, theatre, restaurant, gift shop and several interactive and flexible exhibition spaces, will act as both a gateway destination for visiting tourists as well as a hub for Truro and surrounding communities.
To the west of the main building sits the two smaller "wind break" buildings. One will be designated for public washrooms, and change rooms, while the other is designed to be home to a public use telescope and observatory. The inclusion of an observatory in the design was a response to the lack of available facilities in the area as well as widespread public interest. The observatory also doubles as an active interpretation node connecting the powerful tides in the region to the cycles of the cosmos. The observatory will open the site up to night-time use, will engage community members of all ages, and will give people, from near and far, yet another reason to visit.
The architectural response was germinated from the idea of the "primitive hut" that would not overwhelm the stark floodplain area in which the building finds itself. The idea of the simple form of the tippee from the site's Mi'kmaq heritage was abstracted to a striking exposed glulam primary structure. The permeable nature of each architectural component on the site allows for interactions between users on the site and within the building. At its' apex, the building opens up to a soaring 54.6' high atrium, signifying and interpreting the highest tides found in the region. The primary circulation route through the main building is a ramp that winds through all levels, with activated nodes matching the elevation of the ramp to the tidal elevation in a particular town along the Fundy coast. At each one of these hot spots, a visitor can gain more information about that particular place if they are planning a visit. A new pedestrian and cycle pathway, that connects to existing provincial trails, leads to a new bridge over the Salmon River that pierces through the lower level of the interpretive centre. Second level interior and exterior observation decks take advantage of the sweeping views and sunsets to be found on site, during all four seasons.
The site plan also sees spaces for an amphitheatre, fire pit, zipline across the river, constructed wet land and public courtyard. The goal of the site plan and the architecture was to ensure usage amongst both groups and individuals, those seeking activity and solace, and during all seasons and times of day and night.