9 Block canopy

9 Block Canopy

In Fall 2020, a group of architecture students completed a new bus stop — a design-build project under the direction of research lead Mauricio Soto-Rubio and robotics specialist Guy Gardner. 

Our largest pilot project so far!

One of the reasons we created the City Building Design Lab in the heart of Calgary's downtown is to have a living lab for pilot projects like this one.

This playful, interactive Canopy for the 9 Block Program is our largest project yet.

The project demonstrates that a modest investment can go a long way to improve the quality of urban public space.

In addition to creating an impressive new face for the Castell Building, the canopy explores the use of sustainable and recycled materials and the interactive lighting system adds a playful element to downtown and challenges our collective understanding of urban space.

The research findings from this project will impact the way designers and municipalities design for a safer and more vibrant city.

The canopy was unveiled in November 2020.

Read November 3, 2020 news release →

Explore the full 9 Block Initiative → 

UToday, Nov 5, 2020: Student Designed Test Project Aims to Improve Safety and Vibrancy Downtown. Click on image to read article.


City of Calgary 

Urban Alliance 

Research Team
Lead: Mauricio Soto-Rubio, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary
Researchers: Joshua Taron, Guy Gardner, Nathan Tremblay
Students: Yuxin Liu, Shelby Christenson, Ji Song Sun, Jonathan Montfries
Structural Engineering: Entuitive
Steel Fabrication: Mercedes + Singh 

Design-build experiences are fundamental to architectural education. As students, being able to work through various iterations of the design, to make real-world decisions, and to work with contractors to assemble the design we proposed provides a learning opportunity not possible in a classroom.

Jonathan Monfries, Master of Architecture student

An interactive canopy completed by architecture students

In Fall 2020, a group of architecture students from the University of Calgary completed a design-build project under the direction of research lead Mauricio Soto-Rubio and robotics specialist Guy Gardner. The project includes a 70 feet long mass-timber canopy attached to the existing building of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape in downtown Calgary. The project was attached to the building with a series of innovative brackets that work exclusively in friction without the need of permanently altering the existing building in any way. In addition, the project included several 3D printed, fully interactive, colourful lights equipped with sensors that react to the movement of pedestrians in the area. The project was part of the 9 Block initiative spearheaded by the mayor of the City of Calgary as a way to try improve the perceived sense of safety and vibrancy in Downtown Calgary.

Quick Facts


There are three: to improve sense of safety in the area, create vibrancy in the downtown core and build on the CMLC, City of Calgary, Urban Alliance and SAPL partnership.


The 9 Blocks are the blocks around and including the Municipal Building, Calgary's City Hall. The canopy is just north of City Hall,  the west façade of SAPL’s satellite location, the City Building Design Lab.


The canopy project cost around $75,000, the majority of which went to student wages. The canopy was paid for by the City of Calgary, UCalgary, and CMLC as part of an Urban Alliance agreement.


9 Block as a pilot program led by the City of Calgary will officially come to an end at the end of the year; however, work will continue on initiatives such as the ambassador program and the coordinated safety and security pilot.

9 Block canopy

N. Zeller

What are the elements and materials?

Canopy components were constructed in SAPL’s workshop on campus and at the City Building Design Lab:

  • Plywood design with all curves overlapping - resulting in zero waste.
  • Wood structure with a 50-year outdoor warranty
  • The project provided an opportunity to explore large scale 3D printing using recycled materials and bioplastics including 12–15 lamps with suppliers/tech support for the 3d printer   from Pico Solutions, the North American distributor for WASP printers.
9 block canopy.

R. Brandt

This project is a wonderful example of the creativity and talent among our students in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. The 9 Block initiative launched near the start of this year with the goal of strengthening a key area in the downtown core. We wanted to address the issues surrounding safety and vibrancy, and we wanted to create solutions that reflected the characteristic energy and can-do spirit of our city. ​​​​​​​

President Ed McCauley, University of Calgary