Exploring shade structure options for Waterloo Public Square

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An aerial photo of Waterloo Public Square

The City of Waterloo, along with a consultant team led by SHIFT Landscape Architecture, are conducting a feasibility study for the Laurel Greenway. The first phase of the study was completed in January 2021 and included exploring opportunities to introduce a shade feature/structure to Waterloo Public Square. Since that time, and based on the public feedback that was received, it was determined that the City of Waterloo would proceed with the project and pursue a design concept for a series of shade features. The concept and ongoing process is outlined on this page.

The process:

As part of the initial engagement for the overall Laurel Greenway feasibility study project, a January 2021 public engagement period collected input from the public for various approaches to bring shade to the public square. Many excellent ideas and opinions were collected from the community through comments and survey responses. Some of the highlights of that input included:

  • a preference for smaller-sized shade elements throughout the square
  • a multi-season feature that supports the current uses of the square
  • desire for integrating natural materials
  • inclusion of trees and planting as a source of natural shade and to break up the extent of the concrete area

A summary of the input can be found in the document library.

While many people let us know during January's consultation about their preference for more trees and natural shade, the limited suitability of the public square for urban trees means that some sort of shade structure will also be needed. Additional planting spaces along King Street have been recommended to create a green edge to the square and expand on the existing street trees, and additional tree planting is also being considered within the square’s existing raised planters. At this point, we are looking for your thoughts on a shade structure, that will integrate natural materials.

Using the feedback received, SHIFT worked with local architect, Whitefish Architecture, to develop a conceptual shade structure design suitable for the public square space, presented in the images below.


1. Waterloo Public Square shade element concept view looking from King Street, a rendering of the new shade structures in Waterloo Public Square




The concept:2. Waterloo Public Square shade element concept view looking from south-east corner, a rendering of the new shade structures in Waterloo Public Square

To bring shade to the square, a repeating shade structure has been conceptually developed to enhance the space while bringing an identifiable element to the heart of uptown. The structures are focused on the south end of the square, working with existing infrastructure and other features, and accommodating the many events that happen in the space. These structures cast a dappled shade over the tiered seating and south end of the square. They may also incorporate accent lighting and could be utilized as features for special events. Beyond the structures, additional planting spaces are also being recommended along King Street to create a green edge to the square and expand on the existing street trees. To provide even more natural shade, additional tree planting is also being considered within the square’s existing raised planters.



3. Waterloo Public Square shade element concept view looking from north-east corner, a rendering of the new shade structures in Waterloo Public Square


These shade elements are intended to recall to the local heritage of uptown in a contemporary way, while introducing natural materials into the square and further enhancing the existing, well-used space. The form of the structures plays on the deconstructed form of a barrel, linking to the city’s historic distilling industry, and also capturing the natural form of a leaf and the natural heritage of the area. Materials would include structural steel framing and reclaimed wood that brings variety to the concrete space and softening the square overall. To further enhance the public space, additional shade trees and pockets of at-grade planting are proposed to complement the organic forms being introduced into the square. There are also opportunities to add wood tops to existing concrete seating to further soften the space.


Public consultation and feedback:

The second phase of consultation is now closed. Thank you for providing your feedback on this design concept for the shade structures. We will review the feedback and report back to the community when we are ready to proceed with next steps.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a focus on online engagement through this Engage Waterloo page and using tools that will allow for the greatest outreach possible while abiding by public health protocols.


A site plan view of the Waterloo Public Square shade element concept



The City of Waterloo, along with a consultant team led by SHIFT Landscape Architecture, are conducting a feasibility study for the Laurel Greenway. The first phase of the study was completed in January 2021 and included exploring opportunities to introduce a shade feature/structure to Waterloo Public Square. Since that time, and based on the public feedback that was received, it was determined that the City of Waterloo would proceed with the project and pursue a design concept for a series of shade features. The concept and ongoing process is outlined on this page.

The process:

As part of the initial engagement for the overall Laurel Greenway feasibility study project, a January 2021 public engagement period collected input from the public for various approaches to bring shade to the public square. Many excellent ideas and opinions were collected from the community through comments and survey responses. Some of the highlights of that input included:

  • a preference for smaller-sized shade elements throughout the square
  • a multi-season feature that supports the current uses of the square
  • desire for integrating natural materials
  • inclusion of trees and planting as a source of natural shade and to break up the extent of the concrete area

A summary of the input can be found in the document library.

While many people let us know during January's consultation about their preference for more trees and natural shade, the limited suitability of the public square for urban trees means that some sort of shade structure will also be needed. Additional planting spaces along King Street have been recommended to create a green edge to the square and expand on the existing street trees, and additional tree planting is also being considered within the square’s existing raised planters. At this point, we are looking for your thoughts on a shade structure, that will integrate natural materials.

Using the feedback received, SHIFT worked with local architect, Whitefish Architecture, to develop a conceptual shade structure design suitable for the public square space, presented in the images below.


1. Waterloo Public Square shade element concept view looking from King Street, a rendering of the new shade structures in Waterloo Public Square




The concept:2. Waterloo Public Square shade element concept view looking from south-east corner, a rendering of the new shade structures in Waterloo Public Square

To bring shade to the square, a repeating shade structure has been conceptually developed to enhance the space while bringing an identifiable element to the heart of uptown. The structures are focused on the south end of the square, working with existing infrastructure and other features, and accommodating the many events that happen in the space. These structures cast a dappled shade over the tiered seating and south end of the square. They may also incorporate accent lighting and could be utilized as features for special events. Beyond the structures, additional planting spaces are also being recommended along King Street to create a green edge to the square and expand on the existing street trees. To provide even more natural shade, additional tree planting is also being considered within the square’s existing raised planters.



3. Waterloo Public Square shade element concept view looking from north-east corner, a rendering of the new shade structures in Waterloo Public Square


These shade elements are intended to recall to the local heritage of uptown in a contemporary way, while introducing natural materials into the square and further enhancing the existing, well-used space. The form of the structures plays on the deconstructed form of a barrel, linking to the city’s historic distilling industry, and also capturing the natural form of a leaf and the natural heritage of the area. Materials would include structural steel framing and reclaimed wood that brings variety to the concrete space and softening the square overall. To further enhance the public space, additional shade trees and pockets of at-grade planting are proposed to complement the organic forms being introduced into the square. There are also opportunities to add wood tops to existing concrete seating to further soften the space.


Public consultation and feedback:

The second phase of consultation is now closed. Thank you for providing your feedback on this design concept for the shade structures. We will review the feedback and report back to the community when we are ready to proceed with next steps.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a focus on online engagement through this Engage Waterloo page and using tools that will allow for the greatest outreach possible while abiding by public health protocols.


A site plan view of the Waterloo Public Square shade element concept



  • Drop by the square

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    Drop by Waterloo Public Square on Tuesday, Aug. 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to talk with City of Waterloo staff and project consultants about a proposed concept for shade structures.

    Staff and consultants will be onsite to listen to your thoughts, discuss a proposed concept and gather information to guide the next stage of this project.

Page last updated: 18 October 2021, 15:52