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Anonymous Calgary ‘Bench Project’ wins National Urban Design Award

Anonymous Calgary art project wins national award
WATCH ABOVE: A very simple but sincere project has gained national attention for its unique concept. The bench project team delivered the handmade benches in secret and placed them outside businesses around Calgary. Jill Croteau reports.

The Bench Project, an art project in Calgary created by a group wishing to remain anonymous “to deflect credit”, has won a 2016 National Urban Design Award in the community initiative category.

The National Urban Design Awards aim to promote “urban design and architectural excellence in maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in Canadian cities.” Nine cities took part this year.

Winners for the various awards are determined by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CLSA).

The group of friends in Calgary came up with the project with the goal to “rehumanize public space.” They aimed to build an area where people can create relationships and make social connections by sitting in one of the benches across the city to chat and make conversation.

RAIC, CIP and CLSA awarded the Bench Project the Community Initiatives award stating that the project “offers a new and vibrant interpretation of this basic piece of public furniture and cuts directly to what community initiated urban design should be.”

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Though the Bench Project creators remain anonymous, the project has a Twitter account which they used to thank the RAIC, CIP and CLSA for the award.

An organizer replied via email to a request for comment, thanking the community “which contributed to the inspiration, the construction, and the promotion of the project.”

“We are extremely grateful for this award, and feel honoured to be celebrated alongside such high profile projects and companies,” the email said. “Our community contributed to the inspiration, the construction, and the promotion of the project; we are thankful for those who have inspired us to make the city our own, and happy that our little project has encouraged others to do the same.”

In addition to the Bench Project, Calgary also bagged the Sustainable Development award for St. Patrick’s Island Park by being a “positive example of how design processes can educate community members about sustainability.”