The Tsuut’ina Nation and the city of Calgary have been neighbours for over a century. Throughout this time, Calgary has grown to the point where it now surrounds the Nation’s eastern boundary. This growth has increasingly strained the Bow and Elbow Rivers’ ability to provide for agriculture, industry and the everyday household needs of Tsuu’tina citizens. The Taza Water Reservoir replaces aged infrastructure and provides a consistent source of potable water for the community as it builds out the 500-acre Taza Park – the first of three villages that make up one of North America’s largest First Nation development projects.
For Tsuut’ina, water is sacred. It is the lifeblood of the land and all living things. The Elbow River flows through the Nation on its way to the Glenmore Reservoir where it gets treated. The water is then repatriated back into the Nation by way of the Taza Water Reservoir which serves as a symbolic and physical celebration of the return of this precious resource. Acting as both a critical piece of infrastructure and a symbolic landmark, the design represents the ambition of the entire Taza development: cultural expression through the built environment and sustainable, low impact development that upholds sacred connection to land.
The Reservoir expresses the cultural values of the Tsuut’ina and water conservation practices. The security fence that encloses the buried reservoir is reminiscent of the beaver dam, a reference to the Tsuut’ina being known as the “Beaver People”, while the conical shape of the arrayed wooden elements mimics the shape of a teepee. The curvilinear fence safeguards the reservoir, provides structural support for solar panels, and transforms the project into a bold gateway marker to Taza Park. Using a series of physical mock-ups, the design team tested various configurations of logs, lighting and integrated metal accents to ensure a high level of sculptural quality and integration into the surrounding landscape. The pumphouse building sits within the enclosure with its water distribution system visible to the public. The view into the pumphouse provides an interesting focal point within the Eagle Landing site while educating visitors about water conservation at Taza.
The design is targeting net zero emissions, in line with the sustainability framework created for all public buildings within Tsuut’ina Nation. Solar panels line the fence, leveraging the site’s unshaded southern exposure which will supply the majority of the pumphouse’s electrical requirements. Various methods are being used to reduce energy use of the reservoir, most of which comes from the pumping of water to the distribution network. This includes peak and demand management for the distribution system and matching pump capacity to demand. Where possible, the pumphouse structure is comprised of heavy timber such as glulam beams and columns, and roof decking made of tongue and groove wood boards.
Upon completion, the Taza Water Reservoir will provide a consistent, economical and safe supply of drinking water to the Tsuu’tina Nation. As one of the first projects built within Taza Park, it will set the standard and tone for future development. The project received a 2020 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence, recognized for its ability to reimagine infrastructure as an element of cultural expression and symbology.