Life after hell: restoring hope & self-sufficiency in Red Deer's Michener North
This practicum explores Red Deer’s vacant Michener North and its potential to become an educational and interpretive community resource and urban agriculture hub. The 132.2-acre site has a controversial past, operating as a mental health institution in central Alberta for well over 60 years. It was closed for good in 2014, with access to the public restricted since 2017. Today, it consists of various abandoned structures slated for demolition, parking lots, and open spaces with mature vegetation and well-used pathways. There is a community movement building around the topic of Michener’s fate as groups and activists fight to save this place, or at least pieces of it. An analysis of the site, its surroundings, and how it echoes the patterns and stories of other asylum landscapes reveal that the relationship between the architecture of the buildings and the landscape here tell an important story that must not be forgotten. This project creates a vision for the site through the exploration of a few strategic design interventions. The proposal demonstrates how retaining and protecting as much of the existing infrastructure, topography, and landscape features as possible can create a learning opportunity and a catalyst for the region. Inspired by the local community, the project approach is grounded in celebrating and revealing the story of this site and its potential to be an asset to the people of Red Deer and beyond by creating a series of gardens and orchards - a beautiful place for people to walk, explore, engage, and reflect.