Canada's first funicular opens in the city of Edmonton

With the dream to improve the city's largest green spaces, the first ever funicular in Canada has been opened in Edmonton.

Words by Rebecca Cameron

Named 'The 100 Street Funicular and Fredrick G Todd Lookout', the first ever funicular in Canada has opened in the city of Edmonton. What exactly is a funicular? An incline elevator rigged to a cable which, in Edmonton, will be moved up and down the steep stairs leading to Edmonton's River Valley, making the area more accessible.

The publicly funded $24 million project captured the wish to improve the city's largest green spaces, and was designed entirely by Dialog Design, a versatile architecture and planning firm merging architecture, engineering, interior design, urban design and landscape architecture. The Dialog Design team chose Kebony - a favoured, elegant wood developed in Norway - for the funicular stairs; Kebony is well known for its ecological and durable nature. Along with the fact that it requires no maintenance other than normal cleaning, it seemed the perfect choice.

Discussing the material, Dialog Design states, “the materiality and overall form of the project are heavily influenced by the existing connective infrastructure of the city’s river valley system. The river valley is connected by a series of meandering wood stairs, boardwalks, and weathering steel footbridges and this is an experience that is reinforced by the design. Kebony wood is used on the boardwalk and architectural cladding. Not only does it look beautiful and provide warmth, it has excellent dimensional stability and resistance to rot, designed to last 6 times longer than pressure-treated wood.”

Edmonton's new transit service is stationed on the promenade and rises to a high lookout point, allowing all those who are inside to have an open view of the valley and surrounding scenery. The creation of the lift was an exciting and important step for many in the surrounding area; it is large enough to accommodate mobility aids, bikes and strollers while running parallel to the Kebony-made staircase. This has meant that the exquisite green space and wonderful scenery of the Edmonton area is now available for all to see and enjoy. As well as this, the stairway includes built-in concrete seating for visitors to lounge on while they enjoy the views.

Sustainability was one of the most important factors during the design and construction process. This meant the design team had to balance using environmentally friendly materials - that can withstand all weather conditions - with maintaining the funicular's alluring factor. In the years to come, the Kebony wood will develop a silver-grey patina which should ensure that Edmonton's funicular remains just as astonishing as it now. 

“The Edmonton Funicular is a highly commendable project and the team at Kebony is thrilled that our material has contributed towards the aesthetic, sustainable and hard-wearing elements of this project," Adrian Pye, International Sales Director at Kebony adds. "Kebony’s resistance to wear and weathering and impressive thirty-year warranty will ensure the funicular remains robust and aesthetically pleasing despite its exposed location.”

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