icona partner series: SLA, a nature-based design studio


In the first of an ongoing series of partner profiles, icona shines the spotlight on our strategic partnership with SLA, a globally renowned, landscape architecture studio headquartered in Copenhagen.  

The power of partnerships

icona was founded on a commitment to create places that matter—places that showcase world-class design, innovative materials and construction, advanced technology and engineering, and thoughtful planning and community engagement. We selected key members of the icona team not only because they are leaders in their fields, but because they share this fundamental commitment to excellence and embody our values of creativity, community, integrity, vision and tenacity.

Transformative collaboration happens when global innovation and local expertise come together. That's why, in addition to building our own talented team of experts, we make it a priority to partner with some of the most progressive placemaking experts—both locally and globally.

In this ongoing series, we showcase some of the strategic partnerships icona has forged to enhance our core team with specialized, globally recognized consultants in areas such as landscape architecture, environmental stewardship, technology, engineering, recreation, retail and more.

A complete community

Since early 2021, icona has been immersed in the process of envisioning a bold future for Anmore South, a 150 acre parcel of land situated in the southwest corner of Anmore.

It's a place of extraordinary natural beauty, and from the beginning, our vision has focused on harmonizing the built environment with the natural landscape. In this vision of a complete community in nature, the area's biodiversity and housing diversity are enriched, and residents enjoy a full range of retail and recreational amenities in a setting of protected forests, waterways and trails that is more than six times the size of Rocky Point Park.

As we explored the possibilities with input from Anmore residents, we realized that including the perspective of a global specialist with extensive expertise in nature-based design would enable us to create a truly world-leading community in nature.

Introducing SLA

Among icona’s team of experts is renowned landscape architecture firm SLA, a nature-based design studio that inspires community and diversity through the innovative use of architecture, infrastructure, nature and technology. Known worldwide for its nature-led designs and work with urban biodiversity, SLA's remarkable landscapes, public spaces and masterplanned communities can be found in locations all over the world, including Paris, Beijing, Milan, Abu Dhabi, London, Detroit and Toronto.

In addition to a 30-year track record of delivering award-winning collaborations with architecture leaders such as Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), SLA brings uniquely multidisciplinary capabilities. The team includes biologists, environmentalists, lighting experts, horticulturalists, biologists and anthropologists in addition to landscape architects and community planners.

While SLA's global portfolio is impressive, we ultimately chose to partner with them because of the alignment in our values and a shared commitment to innovation, sustainability and the wellness and connectivity of the communities we create.

SLA's unique vision for creating communities where humans and the natural world cannot only co-exist but enrich each other will make an invaluable contribution to our efforts to transform Anmore South into a complete community.

Meet Rasmus Astrup

Rasmus Astrup, design principal and partner at SLA, is leading the firm's involvement in bringing a nature-led vision of Anmore South to life. He has already had an opportunity to meet with Anmore residents and share some early insights and ideas for sustainable, nature-led placemaking.  

"The forest, topography, creeks and history make Anmore South such a unique and immersive place. It fosters both respect and inspiration. It’s a place that offers opportunities for new standards of sustainable and social living, a place where people can live in nature with their friends, family and neighbours."

Astrup has worked on some of the firm's most innovative projects, including a public nature park for the corporate headquarters of Novo Nordisk that featured exclusively native flora and fauna. He has also been a panelist and keynote speaker for the World Urban Forum, showcasing and discussing the topic of nature-led urban design.

A glimpse of SLA's nature-based designs

SLA takes a distinctly interdisciplinary approach to making livable and sustainable communities, combining global expertise in fields such as landscape architecture, biology, anthropology and city planning with award-winning design expertise. SLA's breathtaking designs can be found in many of the world's most celebrated cities. Here, we share a few of their most intriguing and unusual projects.

Toronto: "City in Nature"

SLA recently completed a resilient masterplan for Toronto's new Downsview district, a "City in Nature" built on the site of a former airbase. This green, connected, and welcoming neighborhood will bring people, place and nature together, connecting neighbourhoods with 100 acres of open space dedicated to parkland.

Credit to: SLA/Henning Larsen Architects

Copenhagen: Rooftop park and ski slope

In partnership with globally renowned BIG architects, SLA transformed the rooftop of a new waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen into a social, sustainable and biodiverse park that is a recreational asset for the whole community. The park combines hiking trails, playgrounds, vantage points, climbing walls and street fitness surrounded by alpine plants, trees, shrubbery and rockscapes. In the winter, it transforms into a 500-metre ski slope.

Credit: Justin Hummerston

Paris: Carbon-neutral ecosytem

SLA is transforming an old Parisian railway site into a new carbon neutral and nature-based ecosystem neighborhood in Paris. The eclectic neighborhood, located in the heart of Paris, will combine residences, public parks, offices, a theatre, design incubators and a school of design and urban farming. Green spaces act as "lungs" for the neighbourhood, mitigating air pollution and providing natural cooling and stormwater management.

Credit: SLA/Biecher Architectes/Emerige/OGIC

Local impact, global approach

icona is creating diverse and design-forward communities throughout the Lower Mainland, from Vancouver to the Tri-Cities and from the North Shore to Fraser Valley. Our impact is local, but our approach is global, bringing world-leading innovation and design to inspire and enliven the communities we create.

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