Reimagining Public Spaces at New Cities Summit 2016

by Melissa

Written by MELISSA, FADY, and SARAH


As part of continuing work on collaboration in public spaces, we were invited along with our sister company Infinite City to host a workshop at the 2016 New Cities Summit held in Montréal. Surrounding the theme ‘The Age of Urban Tech’, the summit attracted 600 world-leading civic innovators and provided a diverse exploration in urban innovation at the hopes of empowering citizens in the thick of technology.

The challenge: urban spaces and cooperation

Can we create cooperative experiences where people dare to do something new and celebrate a collective pride of their cities? What kind of impact do these projects generate?

For our workshop ‘Reviving public spaces through cooperation’ we gathered a group of urban enthusiasts from a diverse set of backgrounds and had them imagine their own solutions for activating a public space through collaboration. Zooming in on the urban narrative of cooperation, we used The Swings as a benchmark for a project that has earned a proven track record to positively impact public spaces. We presented hard data that was generated from sensors located inside the swing seats and both soft data and evaluation criteria from an impact study we commissioned the CLUE Group to do in West Palm Beach and Detroit.


Sunshine research and ideation

Using the space as context to collectively imagine a project, we brought a group of 50 participants to Quartier des Spectacles to survey the site, the people and the stories. Former home of the city’s red light district, the area encompasses 8 public spaces with cultural programming, 80 cultural venues and 450 cultural enterprises. The site receives a large amount of foot traffic yet lacks a layer of human connection and playfulness.

Participants were split into two type of groups – site and people – to observe the space and engage with passersby. Fresh groups were then formed to brainstorm site-specific urban scenarios of cooperation based on their investigations. We also encouraged participants to create their unique set of criteria and to imagine the potential impact of their ideas.

Brainstorming highlights

Quick and dirty ideas were put forward, such as collaborative BBQs and communal food events in which members of the community take turns cooking for each other, the development of a site-specific platform between locals and tourists and greening pre-existing urban furniture and landscape in the area (made primarily of concrete). All groups agreed that bridging the physical to the digital is a compelling and much-needed exercise. All in all, the workshop proved the potential in bringing people together to collaborate on a common endeavour.


Want more?

Join us in Austin, TX for round 2 this October at SxSW ECO.

Hé, nos amis francophones! LaPresse ont parlé de l’évolution des balançoires et du concept de l’atelier. Lisez l’article ici pour en savoir plus.

Psst: Shoutout to John Marcicky, Director of Public Space Activation & Placemaking at Rock Ventures LLC (and key player in bringing The Swings to Detroit this winter) for being an excellent undercover workshop participant.