Et Voila! Concordians showcase their CityStudio Montreal projects
Animated by the sounds of popcorn and camaraderie, more than 250 CityStudio Montreal participants gathered at Marché Bonsecours to share projects and proposals with community members and city officials on December 4. The event’s hot topics were the future of neighbourhoods, data, transport and community engagement.
Espaces Temps coordinated CityStudio Montreal in partnership with the university and with the support of the Maison de l’innovation sociale. The pilot initiative matched Concordia courses with projects identified by city staff in line with their five urban challenges.
This fall, 150 students participated as part of their coursework. Guided by their professors, the students worked with city staff to co-create projects that would benefit the community.
“Students are telling us that they want purpose-driven, hands-on learning,” says Nadia Bhuiyan, Concordia’s vice-provost of partnerships and experiential learning.
“This kind of pedagogy adds an important sense of context and dimension to the student experience. It also creates opportunities for deep engagement, especially when aligned with urban realities.”
After months of prototyping and analysis, teams presented their project outcomes at the showcase event, Voila!, and a jury selected three prize winners.
Dialogues for social change
Carmela Cucuzzella is associate professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts, and the Concordia University Research Chair in Integrated Design, Ecology, And Sustainability (IDEAS) for the Built Environment.
Her course, History and Theory of Design for Sustainability (DART 263), snagged the Outstanding Concept and People’s Choice awards. The CityStudio challenge specific to Cucuzzella’s class asked the design and computation arts students to imagine how data collected by the City of Montreal could inform a community and inspire dialogues for social change.
The students were guided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
The Outstanding Concept Award went to the team that exemplified unusual vision and leadership in understanding the challenge and in exceeding expectations.
Students Lily Cowper and Oldri Kecaj received the award for their project “Rootrade,” which focused on access to food in low-income neighbourhoods. They sought to maximize green spaces by building greenhouses in areas where grocery stores were scarce.
The People’s Choice Award recognizes new talent and honours a project that makes a great contribution in the innovation culture. Recipients Anastasia Statsenko and Patrizio McLelland were recognized for their project “Coin Illuminé” (Illuminated Neighbourhood), which produced attractive data visualizations with respect to the City of Montreal’s open data initiative. This creative interface could help residents visualize their home energy use to encourage more sustainable habits.
‘The commitment was to collaborate’
Silvano de la Llata‘s urban planning course Urban Laboratory (URBS 333) earned a Best Contribution award. The course’s CityStudio challenge was to turn Gorilla Park, located in Montreal’s rapidly changing Marconi-Alexandra neighbourhood, into a space for shared mobility and community interaction. Shared vehicles are managed by the private sector but left in public spaces.
Students were assigned with synthesizing pressing issues of sustainability, mobility, design and community engagement while negotiating the boundaries of the private and public sectors.
The Best Contribution Award is presented to the team that embodies great hope for the future and introduces innovation and creativity to current practice. The Ebbs and Eddies team of Daniel Ercegovac, Dillan Cools, Francis Grenier, Jordan Langlois, Kristopher Adam Poteet and Michael Tomizzi received the prize for their project “Incorporating New Technologies for Freedom of Movement.”
Their Gorilla Park initiative developed a prototype shared mobility hub to host alternative modes of transportation, such as scooters and bikes, while maintaining the existing natural environment and the place’s community identity.
De la Llata, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, received a special mention by the jury for his coordination of projects related to the design of new shared-mobility urban spaces.
Although appreciative of the recognition, he says that competition was not the main point of the CityStudio initiative. The challenge for his team was learning how to collaborate between teams for the common goal of improving the city.
“In today's world, we are almost wired to compete, whether it is between firms in the professional world or between classmates,” De la Llata says.
"Here, the commitment was to collaborate. Collaboration between teams can be complicated, but the students quickly saw the benefits of doing it. In order to design collectively, we have to achieve a creative synthesis of different individual ideas — collaboration is aggregative, competition is subtractive."
What sustainability really means
Since September, student have carried out more than 35 projects across the city, helped by 13 municipal representatives who brought their expertise in areas such as urban service delivery and government policy.
Urban planning student Giuseppina Buonamici notes that the feedback of her city colleagues provided a much-needed perspective to her team’s design project aimed at making Gorilla park more sustainable.
“Working with residents and city officials really helped us understand what didn’t work, and reminded us that our designs had to suit the people and the neighbourhood” she says.
“With their help, we adapted our design and arrived at the core concept of what sustainability really means.”
Anne-Marie Lortie, also in urban planning, agreed that experiential learning opportunities like these greatly benefit career-focused students.
“The constructive criticism really showed us the impact we can have as urban planners, working on projects like these as a team with real situations. It’s great practice.”
For more information on CityStudio Montreal and to learn how to link or integrate it into your classroom, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.