Ryerson travels west to help SFU stage an urban intervention

By November 30, 2015 No Comments

Earlier this month, the streets of Vancouver experienced an urban intervention. Architects, designers, students, and community members took to the streets to temporarily activate local public spaces. Interventions took the form of aluminum art installations, giant games of tic-tac-toe and a street block-sized blanket. They gave Vancouverites the chance to become guerilla artists, play in the streets or, if they were feeling really bold, cuddle with a stranger.

CBI joined in and reimagined a Vancouver public space as part of this interactive one-day event, named TILT City: Engaging the Streets. The event, co-hosted by SFU Public Square HCMA Architecture + Design, and TILT Curiosity Labs, challenged over 100 urbanists from various backgrounds to temporarily transform 12 public spaces on the streets of Vancouver. The goal was to make a social impact, large or small.

The day began with participants randomly divided into groups tasked to collaborate, concoct, and construct urban interventions. The process for selecting sites was almost as fun as the urban intervention itself, groups “chose” their site by throwing a dart at a large map of Vancouver.

Luck and good aim gave groups busy spots in downtown, while some groups were challenged with how to activate the space between a blank wall and fence. Groups were then sent on their way with limited budgets (ranging from $0 to $150) and simply the instructions “temporarily activate the space”.

Groups were busy throughout the morning planning, designing, and creating their interventions. In typical Vancouver fashion, when it came time to activate the space, it rained. The rain, albeit wet, provided a valuable lesson to participants – bad weather doesn’t stop people from engaging in exciting activities. Vancouverites faired the fair weather and stood out in the rain to watch and play games of tic-tac-toe, read praise from a ‘complimentree’, and answer the age old question – is Vancouver actually a no fun city?

image via @shaneksharma

The activity was a great lesson in city building. “It doesn’t take much to activate a space,” said one participant, commenting on how easy it was to draw attention to previously overlooked spaces. One team’s simple installation of chalk pathways, Dr. Seuss quotes, and balloons drew in a large crowd of children passing by. My big lesson from the day: never underestimate the power of balloons.

Another group marked pedestrians’ walking paths to both interact with passersby and create an interesting art piece. The goal was to engage with people, disrupt monotony of their routine, and hopefully get a few smiles. The group found success with just chalk.

image via @Miz_Krisz

“Great ideas can happen spontaneously and have a lasting positive effect on the world. Inspiration requires stepping away from the day-to-day, and taking a moment to do something different and inquisitive.” – TILT Curiosity Labs

The street interventions were installed and dismantled in a matter of hours. By 3pm all the sites were returned to their original state. The physical presence lasted only an hour and a half but the excitement amongst the participants lasted much longer. The exercise provided a hopeful lesson to city builders, we can transform our cities with simple and creative ideas. We just need to remember ‘it doesn’t take much to activate a space.’