This exhibition showcases work done by student teams on two major projects in Montréal—the rebuilding of Avenue McGill-College and the remaking of the ‘Chemin de la Montagne’ (Chemin Remembrance / Voie Camillien-Houde). In March 2019, about 50 students from McGill University, ÉTS, UQAM, the Université de Montréal, and Concordia University took part in two interdisciplinary charrettes hosted by the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture and the School of Urban Planning in the Faculty of Engineering. The two charrettes were organised by McGill in collaboration with Les Amis de le Montagne, the Projet Sainte-Catherine Ouest team (Service des infrastructures, de la voirie et des transports—Ville de Montréal), and the Comité interuniversitaire urbain / Interuniversity Urban Committee. Background work was done by 10 students enrolled in an applied course, the Community Design Workshop, all of whom also participated in the two charrettes as team members.
These panels are official submissions made by the teams in response to specific mandates. The competition mandates were set by steering committees based on crowdsourced public input; the submissions were evaluated by juries of professional experts as part of collaborative processes to inform the development of plans, designs, and programming for the two projects as the Ville de Montréal embarks on their implementation from later in 2019 to 2020. Both projects involve the reorganisation of public space. This provides a rare opportunity to rethink relationships of landscape, transportation infrastructure, and the social life of the city in its streets, parks, and other open spaces.
Key to the challenge is the concept of landscape connectivity: reducing the fragmentation of the physical environment for humans in our natural state (without motorised vehicles) and for other living creatures, enhancing the resilience and beauty of everyday landscapes. The two charrettes are part of work now being done in an interdisciplinary SSHRC-funded partnership led by Professor Nina-Marie Lister (Ryerson University), including McGill’s own Professor Nik Luka (Architecture / Urban Planning) as local coordinator.
COMMUNITY-BASED DESIGN THROUGH CROWDSOURCING
The term charrette (literally meaning ‘small cart’) denotes both a mode of practice in design and a specific kind of event. To be in ‘charrette mode’ is to be working furiously to a deadline. As a discrete event, a charrette is a sort of ‘workshop’ bringing different specialists together for a short period of time—usually no more than 48 hours—with the intent of infusing conventional modes of project development with important bursts of energy and fresh insight. A charrette is akin to a design competition, but it is less formal and elaborate. The term is believed to derive from the wooden cart onto which students at the École des Beaux-Arts were required to place their work for official submission and review by their mentors.
COMMUNITY-BASED DESIGN THROUGH CROWDSOURCING
Community-based design (CBD) is a burgeoning area of practice in architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, and planning. Across Canada and in other liberal democracies, key actors such as policymakers, politicians, and private-sector agents of change increasingly turn to diverse publics to inform decision-making process at all stages of project development. Crowdsourcing is an ideal in CBD—but it is hard to achieve! As ‘democracy takes command’ in metropolitan regions (Kaliski, 2009), it is increasingly vital to develop the appropriate tools, frameworks, and spaces to ensure that non-specialist community-based knowledge is shared and disseminated to planners, designers, and decision-makers in ways that are timely, duly democratic, and transparent. This is especially so in Québec with the recent devolution of certain powers to municipal governments coupled with an enhanced mandate for public engagement (Loi 121, Loi 122). In Montréal, official debates on key projects now require public input through the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). Further work is needed, however, on how to make these processes more accessible, and to similarly open up all levels of government vis-à-vis public concerns.
Architects, urban designers, landscape architects, planners, and other professional specialists all have key roles to play in this expanded mandate for who gets to participate in guiding continuity and change—and how. This is where opportunities for crowdsourcing in meaningful ways continue to be developed through action-research and community-engaged learning at universities across North America. At McGill, faculty members and students have worked on these questions for decades, often in partnership with civil-society organisations and local government; for instance, participatory Community Design Workshops have been taught at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture and the School of Urban Planning since the 1970s. This exhibition highlights some of the ways in which action-research and community-engaged learning opportunities are underway with projects unfolding right on McGill’s doorstep.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS / WORKS CITED / FURTHER READING
The two charrettes and this exhibition were made possible by funding provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Faculty of Engineering (Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Engineering—eLATE), the Brenda and Samuel Gewurz Endowment for Urban Design, the Réseau Villes-Régions-Monde, Les Amis de la Montagne, and the Ville de Montréal. In-kind support was also provided by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montréal (CIRM-CRIÉM), the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, and the School of Urban Planning.
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