The Great Pyramids of Edmonton

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A few weeks ago, Rachel took me out for my birthday. We’d talked a lot about going to the recently re-opened Muttart Conservatory, located in the very picturesque neighbourhood of Cloverdale (and in fact one of my favourite neighbourhoods in all of Edmonton). Talk turned to action when she took me down to this gem of the river valley to celebrate my being old.

The Muttart Conservatory closed in March 2008, and underwent some fairly heavy-duty renovations. They didn’t actually open again until June 27, 2009. According to a press release from the City of Edmonton, a lot of the renos had to do with expanding instruction space inside the facility, and moving a new café and gift shop to the front of the facility.

More on the renovations from the release:

The $6.3 million project was completed on budget and funded by the Muttart Foundation, Provincial Government and the City of Edmonton.

  • Muttart Foundation $600,000
  • City of Edmonton $1,930,000
  • Provincial Government $3,800,000 (Municipal Sustainability Initiative, $3,000,000; Major Community Facility Program Grant $800,000)

Post-renovation, the space looks wonderful. The front entrance features some of the most tasteful concrete work I’ve seen in a long time, which is surprising for a place that’s supposed to be all about plants. Here’s a picture of Rachel barely containing her excitement about our outing:

Brushed steel belies the greenery inside...

Brushed steel belies the greenery inside...

The Conservatory is laid out as four large glass pyramids with an enclosed courtyard in the centre. The courtyard section includes a café, gift shop, information and cashiers booth, a large seating area, and several classroom spaces (they have both wet and dry classrooms — wet, I think, for the planting experiments kids get to do).

The Edmonton sky through plate glass

The Edmonton sky through plate glass

Rachel and I decided to step into the “feature” pyramid, which the Conservatory changes up every now and then. While we were there, it was a jazz/music theme, with some really interesting art, including some giant, jazz-playing fish:

White men cant jump, but fish CAN play the saxophone

White men can't jump, but fish CAN play the saxophone

Admittedly, I found the space kind of hokey. Rachel and I both dug some of the artwork festooning the walls, but it didn’t feel like a terribly-well integrated display. Having said that, I have no idea how one should do a featured pyramid, and all the plants were still terribly beautiful.

The feature pyramid had lots of these little guys

The feature pyramid had lots of these little guys

Anyway, it was a great first choice pyramid to check out because everything just got better from there on in.

Next, we decided to check out the temperate pyramid, seeing how we were expecting the plants in there to be a little less novel. And while there were definitely some familiar plant-life, there was also a great deal of variety of temperate flora that wasn’t recognizable to us.

Strange, yet beautiful. LIKE ME

Strange, yet beautiful. LIKE ME

We then proceeded to the desert pyramid, figuring on saving the best for last in the tropical pyramid. There were all manner of cacti and oddly-shaped plants in this arid greenhouse. My favourite cactus was the one that resembled an owl:

A wise old cactus

A wise old cactus

Because I was using a macro lens, I didn’t take any shots of the whole pyramids. Just super-close-ups of plants. In hindsight, more expansive shots to give you an idea of the layout would have been ideal. But I’m selfish like that…

Rachel and I finished off our excursion in the very humid tropical pyramid. Huge plants and beautiful flowers surrounded us.

Size matters: this gives you some idea of scale

Size matters: this gives you some idea of scale

The Muttart is one of those attractions that, as an Edmontonian, I definitely take for granted. I hadn’t been to the Conservatory since I was in grade school, and though I don’t remember it all that much from back then, I’m dead certain that I didn’t enjoy it as much then as I did when we went there in July.

We will definitely be going back, only next time we’ll bring some food to take with us into one of the more serene pyramids so we can enjoy an indoor picnic that rivals some of the nicest outdoor spots in Edmonton.

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2 Responses to “The Great Pyramids of Edmonton”

  1. @tricotmiss
    August 12, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    Nice review of the updated space. I love the Muttart and I’m really glad it’s open again.

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