June 9, 2014 2:09 pm

Competition urges youth to redesign Toronto’s public spaces

The city of Toronto has launched a competition calling on young people to share their vision for improving Toronto’s public spaces.

Heather Loney, Global News

TORONTO – If you’re ever walked down a dull city street or through an underused parkette and thought, “this could be so much better,” the city of Toronto wants your help.

City officials and urban strategy studio Distl have launched a competition calling on young people to share their vision for improving Toronto’s public spaces.

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The NXT City Prize challenges participants to re-imagine Toronto’s city-owned public spaces, including streets, sidewalks, parks, transit corridors, waterfront areas and parking lots.

The competition is open to all Ontarians under the age of 30, regardless of their education, disciplines or experience.

“The goal of this competition is to encourage young people to think critically about how we’re using public spaces and move away from conventional thinking about those spaces,” said Distl co-founder, Mackenzie Keast.

“It’s their future and their opportunity to shape the city in which they live.”

Competition organizers said they are looking for a variety of people. “The NXT City Prize recognizes that the ethos of young people means they are experimental, adventurous and connected to the spirit of change,” reads the competition website.

Participants are asked to identify an area or issue where improving that public space will benefit the needs of future generations.

“It may be a structure, a new function, programmed activities or something completely unexpected.”

Submissions will be accepted until July 31. The winner, announced on Aug. 14, will be selected by a panel of judges including Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat and Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation.

Criteria for the winning submission include how innovative and forward-thinking the vision is, how it benefits the public and surrounding neighbourhood, and its lasting impact on Toronto’s public realm. The winning entry will receive $10,000 in funding to help the vision become a reality.

The Toronto competition follows similar events in cities around the world.

In April, the city of Vancouver’s public space program VIVA Vancouver announced the winner of its 2014 design competition.

The city invited emerging and professional designers to submit their ideas for transforming the 800 block of Robson Street info a pedestrian plaza.

The winning design, Urban Reef, was selected from nearly 80 submissions from around the world.

The design features areas where people can sit and watch street performers, lounge in the sun, enjoy street food and interact with those around them.

Urban Reef will transform Vancouver’s Robson Square for two months this summer.

Last week, officials in Boston announced the winners of its inaugural Public Space Invitational, which asked designers, engineers and artists to re-imagine Boston’s public space, including streets, plazas, sidewalks and public buildings to better serve the public.

The nine winners, selected from 72 entries, included a book-lending kiosk, a mural that will transform the ceiling at city hall and street furniture that will double as a playground.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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