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Askew’s Uptown Supermarket

Flagship building delivers performance, anchors fresh ideas in mixed-use development

A rapidly growing community of about 18,000 residents, Salmon Arm lies midway between Calgary and Vancouver on the south shore of Shuswap Lake. Established in the 1880s during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, it has a compact and characterful downtown core, now unfortunately surrounded by the kind of sprawling and generic development typical of every other Canadian city of similar age and size.


In such a ‘placeless’ place, one might reasonably expect a new supermarket to adopt the expedient and ubiquitous automobile-friendly typology, that of a mute metal or concrete box adrift in a sea of parking. However, Askew’s Uptown Supermarket breaks with convention, and in so doing, speaks to several of the key pieces that make up the sustainability puzzle.

The flagship of a locally-owned business that has operated in Salmon Arm for more than 80 years, the supermarket is the first phase in a planned six hectare mixed use development that will include retail, office and residential space. The site is on a ‘frontage road’ that parallels the Trans Canada Highway, northeast of the city centre, in an area that has seen significant residential growth in the past two decades. In this context, the Askew’s development aims to set a precedent and encourage a move away from inefficient and unsustainable single-use zoning.

As architect Florian Maurer puts it, “The guiding principle is as simple as turning a negative photograph into a positive: instead of placing buildings in the middle of parking lots, they are used to create streetscapes and squares.” The starting point is the creation of a Street Wall. Next is a row of trees, then a walking and cycling path, and finally parallel parking – this last a strategy to slow down traffic and announce a ‘destination’ rather than a thoroughfare.

The site drops off steeply from the road so the back of the supermarket has been tucked into the slope, with a continuous storefront window below a projecting roof creating an attractive and animated facade along the street. The store’s ancillary functions are under a landscaped boulevard and were allowed to be built to the property line. Meantime a switchback ramp leads vehicles to the parking lot that forms a square at the centre of the site.

The construction of the building also departed from local norms. The forest products industry has been a traditional mainstay of the local economy, although it has recently been hit by a combination of consolidation and globalization. Doors made with New Zealand radiata pine can now be purchased more cheaply than those made from native material. With family roots in the local forest industry, architect Chris Allen saw this project as an opportunity to fight back. Similarly, as a service provider to that industry for more than 80 years, the Askew’s Company wanted to make its project a statement of community support.

Accordingly, the 3,000m2 roof of the building was designed as a system of nail-laminated timber [NLT] panels, that used 245,000 board feet of locally-harvested dimension lumber and 1,320 sheets of plywood.

”This low-tech approach had many benefits: reducing the carbon footprint of processing and transportation; eliminating the use of potentially harmful adhesives and finishes; and enabling the work to be competitively bid and shared between five local contractors. Shop prefabrication of the wood components also enabled the work to be carried out over the winter, providing out of season employment for carpentry crews.

Jim Taggart, FRAIC is editor of SABMag.

    Owner/Developer David Askew
    Architects Landform Architecture Ltd. and Florian Maurer Architect
    Structural Engineer Fast + Epp
    Mechanical/Electrical Engineer Integral Group
    Civil Engineer Gentech Engineering Inc.
    Construction Manager Exel Construction
    Landscape Eric Reynard Landscape Architect
    Photos Derek Lepper Photographer, Martin Knowles Photography, Florian Maurer, Chris Allen