Starting 2015 off with… collaboration!

For the past few months, I’ve been quietly working on a few new projects and connecting with great groups in Regina and beyond. Now that we are into 2015, I’m happy to say that these projects are taking shape and I can start talking about them.

The most exciting collaboration is with the folks at Queen City Hub and Regina Advocates for Design. They’re launching a lecture series called Urbanity 101 which will explore topics related to urban planning, design, and citizen engagement. The goal is to provide a space for citizens to improve their understanding of urban issues and planning concepts, ask questions, and engage in a more social dialogue. The specifics of the series are still under development, but more information will be coming soon!

I don’t know about you, but I’m already excited about what 2015 has in store!

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Starting 2015 off with… collaboration!

Five Years of RUE

This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of Regina Urban Ecology! (first post here)

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As regular readers know, the blog has gotten quieter in the last few years – as a “not-even-non-profit”, every post and every project we’ve undertaken has been because contributors and guest contributors generously gave their time (and for posts in particular, they ALWAYS take longer than you expect). I’ve never held contributors to a schedule or even expectation for posting because if I can’t pay them for their work that’s just not ok. For myself, finding work-life balance has often been a challenge and I’ve had to set some things, including writing regular posts, to the side to make sure I don’t burn out. However, RUE continues to be a great way to connect with people locally and nationally who are working to improve our cities.

It has been so exciting to see the conversation about Regina as a city evolve over the last few years. More citizens are willing and interested to have a productive discussion on how our city is growing and changing and how we can ensure it grows sustainably and equitably. Consultants working on the Design Regina Official Community Plan and Transportation Master Plan have noted that Reginans are actually pretty educated and savvy when it comes to good planning principles. Reginans desire complete communities (with a mix of housing, employment opportunities, and amenities that are convenient and enjoyable to navigate on foot) and complete streets that are safe for all users regardless of their age, ability, or mode of transportation. There is a lot of work still to be done to ensure these goals and principles come to fruition but the support from the community is encouraging and a first important step.

And there are even more great groups in the city advocating for change and bringing such positive and productive conversation to our city. Bike Regina has gained momentum as a positive force in our city advocating for better bike infrastructure to improve safety and support sustainable transportation. Regina Advocates for Design has been provoking great discussion and participation with a film and lecture series, their summer sketch club, and, recently, spearheading Regina’s first Park(ing) day (I had the pleasure of stopping by their installation last weekend while I was in town- see above)! This group is really fantastic and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got next. The Queen City Hub (Regina’s first coworking and skill-sharing space) has also been active promoting discussions about the City with panels and facilitated discussions about housing in the city and the future for arts and culture in the downtown.

All of this is to say that the last five years have been a pleasure and, although RUE continues to shift and change, I can’t wait to see what fun new collaborations and conversations are coming. Many thanks to everyone who’s ever read, shared, and commented on a post, as well as those working to make our city even better.

xo

Five Years of RUE

Get2gether!

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Hi all!

I’m here to let you know about a cool project that launched this week to help you inspire change in your neighbourhood. The Montreal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC), in partnership with the Center for a New American Dream and One Earth, is launching the 2014 Get2gether Neighborhood Challenge – a call to citizens across Canada to transform their city, one block at a time.

MUEC is accepting applications over the next few weeks from citizen groups who want to lead local improvement projects in their communities, and will help teams raise funds to make their project a reality. To do this, MUEC is partnering with IOBY, a platform for citizen-led, neighbour-funded projects.

After evaluating the applications, selected teams will begin the project process in August with targeted training sessions on how to crowd-fund their projects and whatever amount the teams raise through this process will be matched dollar-for-dollar by MUEC up to $2,000 per project. The deadline to apply is July 27, 2014 UPDATE – the deadline has been extended to August 4, 2014.

Regina Urban Ecology is working with MUEC, providing local support and information for groups in Regina who are interested in submitting an application. Have a Regina-specific question (e.g. “Our team wants to improve the pocket park behind the RPL Central Branch – do you know who I might talk to at the RPL to get their support?”)? Feel free to send us an email (regina.urbanecology@gmail.com) and we’ll do our best to help you out!

For more info about the project and how to apply, visit the project website here!

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Get2gether!

Summer 2014

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Summer in the Queen City is in full swing! In addition to attending festivals, relaxing on patios, and vacationing at the lake this summer, there are also some cool “urban” themed things that you should add to your summer to-do list:

1) Take part in the Regina Advocates for Design Summer Sketch Camp: RAD hosts an informal gathering every other Tuesday for people to brush up on their sketching skills. Bring your own materials and meet the group in front of Regina Central Library downtown. No previous experience required. Remaining sessions take place: July 15, July 29, Aug 12, Aug 26).

2) Participate in the community engagement regarding the Regina Public Library Central Branch: The RPL has launched a new public consultation to discuss the future of the RPL Central Branch – including the physical building and programming needs of the future. Engagement activities will be happening through the summer, including a booth that will be popping up at various events. Right now there is an online survey you can fill out – get on it!

3) Add your voice to cycling advocacy in the city: Bike Regina is looking for a new member on their Board of Directors! The membership of Bike Regina has been growing and they are increasingly a positive force for improving cycling in our city. Applications are open until July 31, 2014.

4) Map your thoughts on the Regina Cycles Map: While we’re talking cycling, Bike Regina and Regina Urban Ecology have an online crowdsourcing initiative to map the good, bad, and ugly about cycling in Regina. As you’re out biking and enjoying the wonderful weather, add your thoughts on improvements to the network, where cyclists can access existing amenities, and potentially dangerous conditions (e.g. collision hotspots).

5) Follow the Traveller’s Building on Twitter: The Traveller’s Building is a designated heritage building in downtown Regina that has been left empty and in disrepair for over a decade. There is so much potential for this building’s future. There’s a new twitter account to show this building the attention and love it deserves – you really should follow it!

Have a great summer!

-Laura

Summer 2014

Design and community

Hey all! I hope the new year is treating you well so far! Just a quick post to let people know about a couple of cool  initiatives to recently get started in Regina  – the Queen City Hub and Regina Advocates for Design. I think that both are going to add a lot of energy and fresh perspective into the discussion about how our city will and should grow in the coming years.

996999_432285983560093_418388265_nI heard about Regina Advocates for Design from a friend, and I have to say I’m pretty excited! RAD is a group of architects, landscape architects, planners, and design professionals  and their mission is “to advocate for the importance of design and innovation in Regina’s built environment”. The group is quite new but they’ve already hosted their first film screening earlier this month (featuring the film Archiculture) as well as a  lecture about the work of Arthur Erickson in early December. It’s great to see an active public discussion about design and architecture in the city!

 

Queen City Hub

Queen City Hub is a new co-work space in downtown Regina. There are a lot of great co-work spaces in cities across Canada, a number of which we’ve talked about before including the Centre for Social Innovation (Toronto), the HUB (Halifax), and the TwoTwenty (Saskatoon), so I’m very excited to see this starting in our city! In addition to flexible work spaces, they also host community events. This week they hosted Hub Social: Building Cultural Capacity in Regina, examining the role of community organizations, cultural institutions, and citizens in the growth of our city.

 

It’s great to see more people engaging in these types of initiatives and discussions. I look forward to seeing how both of these initiatives develop this year!

Design and community

Four years.

That’s right!  Regina Urban Ecology officially turned four today! It still blows my mind to think of how simply starting this blog has influenced many aspects (read: most all) of my life.

A lot has happened in four years and, though I know the blog has been rather quiet for awhile, it is still something that informs the way I think daily…

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This summer I finished my degree as an urban planner (yay!) – as part of the McGill program, students must complete a supervised research project on any topic that is of interest to them. It isn’t quite a thesis but is a considerable amount of work. As long-time readers know, I have a real love for citizen-led initiatives, creative solutions to everyday problems, and straight-up urban subversion. I’m also a firm believer that planners and citizens need to collaborate more and that planners should empower citizens to be more engaged in the process of how their communities develop. So, for my final grad project I chose to look at the topic of tactical urbanism (small-scale, short-term interventions meant to inspire long-term change) — think guerilla gardening, chair bombing, and Park(ing) day.

I wanted to examine what role, if any, planners should have in these initiatives and how they might use these types of projects to collaborate with citizens. Planners are indeed starting to incorporate temporary and pilot projects into their work to test ideas in real-time before committing time and money to make an intervention permanent (the pedestrian plazas in New York City are a perfect example). I spoke to citizens, community organizations, planners, and municipal officials from cities across North America to get their perspective on projects they’d led and it was inspiring to say the least. A lot of wonderful, creative, and thoughtful work is being done in our cities. In the next month I’ll be posting a guidebook that I prepared as part of my  project (I may provide a link to the full project as well).

All of this is to say that the conversations here at RUE and the community that has developed continue to inspire me. Thank you to everyone who has ever read a post, left a comment, or simply mentioned that this little space exists. I greatly appreciate it all and look forward to continuing the discussion, sporadic though it may be.

-Laura

xo

Four years.

Friday Feature: 21 Balancoires

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This week on my way home on the bus, I passed through the Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal – a district featuring a number of cultural institutions and located near to the Université du Québec à Montréal. As the bus stopped, I was delighted to see (and hear) one of my favourite playful public installations back in the city for the spring!

21 Balancoires is a very fun installation by the group Daily tous les jours (we covered another one of their projects as a Friday Feature a few years ago) – it’s part street furniture and part game. The project consists of 21 swings that make music while you swing. Whimsical and lovely? Yes! What’s better? The project is meant to encourage participants to cooperate with one another. If you cooperate and communicate with your fellow swingers, new melodies emerge. In this great interview, Mouna Andraos (one of the artists) says, “To make music, you need more than one person. And to make that music evolve, you have to communicate with the other person, in one way or another!” I highly suggest reading the interview to get more info on the artists and their collaboration with a professor of animal behaviour for the project.

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The design of the swings is bright and colourful and at night, the lights on the bottom of the seats create fun effects as people swing. The project has been installed in Montreal for a few summers and I can’t wait to make the treck down there (maybe this weekend) to play again!

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I’d love to see a project like this installed (even temporarily) in Regina’s City Square Plaza. Something that would provide a passive and fun activity for passersby (seriously who doesn’t like to sit and swing for awhile?) and add a sense of play and joy to such a key central space in the downtown.

Have a great weekend!

** Photos and video via Daily tous les jours

Friday Feature: 21 Balancoires