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From plant podcasts to transit access — the latest CityStudio Montreal showcase is now online

Last month’s virtual awards ceremony celebrated several Concordia student projects
January 20, 2021
Graphic of a girl running and another girl riding a bike in an urban setting.
Aaron Bensmihen: “It is neat to know that our project may guide future plans within the city.” | Image courtesy of CityStudio Montreal

The CityStudio Montreal awards ceremony, held remotely in December, marked the end of another round of successful project proposals by Concordia students aiming to tackle local urban challenges.

The fall 2020 CityStudio Montreal showcase is now online and highlights the achievements of several Concordians who participated last term.

CityStudio Montreal promotes civic engagement by organizing collaborations between students and the city to create projects that benefit the community. The initiative matches Concordia courses with priority projects identified by city staff. Based on a similar concept out of Vancouver, the Montreal iteration began in 2019.

Last year, the showcase was a full afternoon event, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the latest projects are instead accessible online. They are all oriented around one of four urban challenges: Heat Islands, Solidarity Behaviours, Public Spaces and Large Urban Projects.

Podcasts and plant literacy

Four groups of Concordia students had their projects evaluated by a CityStudio jury and were featured during the Voilà! 2020 CityStudio Montreal Awards event, hosted by 4TH SPACE on December 17.

Power to the Plants, a podcast project developed by Lauren Michaud, Adji Seck, Jacqueline Trudel, Dakota Kitchen and Samar Boudinar, was awarded the Original Concept prize. It was also recognized as a Juror’s Choice.

The City of Montreal’s Service de la gestion et de la planification immobilière developed Power to the Plants in collaboration with assigned municipal expert Nicolas Marier. The students prepared the project for the Governance of Nature (SOCI 398) course taught by sociology and anthropology professor Katja Neves.

“Working on this project was an enriching experience,” Trudel says. “Each member’s participation was critical to the success of the project because we all brought something unique to the drawing board.”

The idea behind the podcast was to create an interactive experience using planters with QR codes located throughout Montreal. When scanned, the code takes users to a podcast episode that corresponds to the given planter and teaches its users a variety of facts about plants native to North America.

Toward a more accessible transportation system

Another project, Bridging the Gaps, took home the Potential Impact prize. It was a collaboration between the Service de l’urbanisme et de la mobilité’s Annie Laurin and students from Alexandra Lesnikowski’s Impact Assessment (URBS 480) class: Aaron Bensmihen, Ben Azoulay, Issac Choueke, Melissa Bell, Mirja Reid and Sahithiya Kannathasan.

“This experience presented a unique and rewarding opportunity to research and develop solutions for real-life challenges and share our work with planners, professors, students and city staff,” Bell says.

The project analyzes the city’s current transportation systems and addresses accessibility and mobility gaps and challenges in the Bridge-Bonaventure sector.

“To be able to create change, we have to better understand the existing context,” Bensmihen adds. “It is neat to know that our project may guide future plans within the city.”

Two other projects caught certain judges’ attention and were recognized as a Juror’s Choice.

From Fringe to Hinge proposed a framework for identifying areas most suitable for public space expansion. The group proposed completing Montreal communities through the transformation of fringe sites into inclusive, productive and entrepreneurial spaces.

The Schoolyard Ecosphere Project emphasized the importance of people of all ages and backgrounds forming a connection to nature. The students involved proposed the development of green spaces in urban schoolyards that could allow for community empowerment, sustainability education, barrier breaking and knowledge exchange — all while addressing the city’s heat zones.

‘Outside-the-box thinking’ leads to tangible action

Since 2019, CityStudio Montreal has connected 300 Concordia students from 11 courses with nine urban challenges in Montreal. As of now, 74 per cent of participants have experimented with new approaches to urban challenges and five student projects developed for this initiative are being carried out.

“Without the collaboration of Concordia, the City of Montreal and Espaces temps, this wouldn’t have been possible,” says Maude Lecourt, the university’s senior lead of cities and partnerships. “I’m always amazed by how much creativity and thinking-outside-the-box the students have.”


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