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Posted by: Charles Montgomery on January 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

By Seth Geiser

Can art and design make us kinder? Can we design more trust or altruism into the city?

MOV invited students from CityStudio, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and SFUs School of Interactive Art and Technology to consider these questions through design.

The challenge? To create experiments and designs to test or boost feelings of trust and connection among total strangers.

On Nov 23, students tested their designs on hundreds of members of the public during two events at the Museum of Vancouver. We called this experiment The Happy City Machine. The student work was eye-opening, thought-provoking, and often great fun. Guest judge Marten Sims of the Vancouver Design Nerds helped choose three standout experiments. Here they are:

Now You See Me (ECUAD students)

Seated in adjoining isolation booths, pairs of participants were asked to don a pair of headphones and gaze through a long, narrow tunnel at eye height. Initially looking into darkness, each participant discovered at the switch of a light that a stranger was gazing back at them from the other end of the viewing tunnel. They were left to gaze at each others’ eyes for the duration of a song, such as "It's a Wonderful World." The experience led them well past the point of social comfort. Some shut their eyes. But most did not back away from the intimacy. After each round, the strangers would be introduced and invited to chat about their experience. Participants reported engaging in all kinds of ocular communication, from winks to moving their eyes in time with the music in a kind of playful dance. Most described the experience as positive, which is surprising given our general fear of eye contact with strangers.

Mani Mahmoudian image

Seth Geiser image

Rock the Boat (ECUAD students)

This installation consisted of a small wooden boat under a broad umbrella, onto which video was projected from below. Volunteers were invited into the boat's snug seating, where they were prompted to share secrets and jokes, and explore the idea that "we're all in the same boat." It's often hard to nudge strangers into proximity, but Rock the Boat succeeded, using clever design, intriguing projections and cozy arrangement to lure people together.

Mani Mahmoudian image

Mani Mahmoudian image

Laughing Dresses (SFU-SIAT students)

Laughter is contagious. But what if the laughter emerges disembodied through a hidden speaker and is accompanied by twinkling lights? This kinetic fashion experiment explored the idea using a motion-sensing dress that emitted the recorded sounds of the dress wearer's laughter. The intensity and pattern of laughter was determined by the movements of the wearer. The dress triggered an almost-viral chorus of laughter among party-goers.

Charles Montgomery image

It was wonderful to see the student designs getting so many strangers talking and playing together. The program convinced us to take things up a notch in 2014. Our new program, Urban Cortex, empowers students to take their social devices into the public realm. Stand by for event news!

Posted by: Charles Montgomery on October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm

For one day in the summer of 2013, hundreds of people came together to re-invent a Vancouver street using giant blocks of recycled polystyrene. We built castles. We built walls. We built giant games and hallucinatory landscapes. Most of all, we worked and played together to transform the street into an ephemeral social machine. The day was the culmination of months of thinking, arguing, designing and dreaming by a team led largely by volunteers. We at MOV called the project Upcycled Urbanism.

For many urbanites, the landscapes we move through can feel finished, static and beyond our control. Upcycled Urbanism was initiated to empower students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone else who cared to become part of Vancouver’s evolving design culture by reimagining—and rebuilding—part of Vancouver’s public realm.

Working together, teams of participants designed and built prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from construction sites around the Lower Mainland by Mansonville Plastics.

First, students from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) created prototypes of building blocks. Then, at a series of workshops in the spring, teams brainstormed, sketched, and modelled how to use these blocks for wild new public design ideas. They got plenty of help from design experts from partner organizations, which included SALA, the Vancouver Public Space Network and Spacing Magazine.

Then, on July 13, we hit Granville Street. There were dozens of volunteer builders, and nearly six hundred giant blocks to play with. Our team leaders thought it would be hard to convince the public  to join the build effort. Not so! Often led by their children, passers-by leapt into the design+build fray. Because the work was temporary, people took all kinds of chances with their design, using the I-beam and 3X3 blocks to make tables, pyramids, thrones, forts and surreal sculptures.

During the day, more than 1,500 people stopped to play, build, critique or take pictures. My favourite moment came during the heat of mid-afternoon. A fire alarm sounded in a nearby building, and dozens impromptu builders jumped into action, clearing the street of building blocks within seconds. It was a moment of destruction, but also of wonderful, organic teamwork by people, many of whom had begun the day as strangers. And it prepared us to start building all over again.

It all felt like play. In fact what we were doing was learning how to design and build together. We were testing the bubble-bursting potential of new forms. We were teaching ourselves not just styro-engineering, but new techniques for working together with strangers. And with every new structure, we claimed a little bit more ownership of the street. 

After all the building was done, volunteers packed the polystyrene into our rented cube truck and hauled it back to Mansonville Plastics, where it was ground down and used to make new building products. The cycle was complete.

Thank you to our amazing  partners and team leaders. Thank you to the members of the public who helped build a new street for a day. Thank you to the Vancouver Foundation, whose generous support helped get the project going. Thank you to MOV staff and volunteers. And thank you to Mansonville  Plastics, whose recycling efforts inspired us, and whose blocks helped turn our dreams into design.

Upcycled Urbanism was a Museum of Vancouver initiative in partnership with the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Public Space Network, Maker Faire Vancouver, and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, Mansonville Plastics and the Vancouver Foundation.

Posted by: Charles Montgomery on March 26, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism?

After a month of brainstorming, design posturing, and hundreds of chocolate chunk cookies, the Upcycled Urbanism community has gathered enough ideas to drive a truly mind-bending public space intervention.

Ideas were flying fast and furious at our final workshop on March 24 thanks to help from Spacing Magazine, Vancouver Maker Faire, and UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

Team leaders Blair Satterfield, Matthew Peters, and Anya Paskovic encouraged participants to imagine designs that shocked and surprised people, in part by juxtaposing unexpected forms and ideas against otherwise mundane places. Linnea Zulch took some great images here

(Linnea Zulch image.)

The ideas came from all directions. Like this: a malleable blockade, forcing people to contort in order to pass down a busy downtown street:

(Linnea Zulch image.)

A team made of high school students and more seasoned designers used Minnie Chan’s 3X3 blocks to create a spine-like structure reminiscent of Brian Jungen’s whale sculpture:

(Linnea Zulch image.)

Someone even suggested creating a giant pond in the middle of the street: a place for floating polystyrene blocks or—why not?—people. What might this look like...something like this?

It was wonderful to see participants of all ages using this design playtime to create visions that, if built, could disrupt our city’s idea of what streets are for. Of course we are not merely dreaming with design. The Upcycled community will actually be turning these ideas into form in public this July, using giant, super-light blocks of expanded polystyrene.

What’s next?

Now our three teams are using lessons from these workshops to figure out what they will build at our spectacular public design/build event on July 13. That event will take place at a central downtown location, to be announced next month. You can be part of that day of creative disruption! If you want to stay involved or join one of the design teams, keep in touch with us…

Through Twitter: @museumofvan #upcycledurbanism

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MuseumofVancouver

Or watch for updates on MOV’s Upcycled Urbanism blog topic: Upcycled Urbanism

And help us create a public design revolution!

[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]

 

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Posted by: Charles Montgomery on March 12, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism?]

As we head towards our third round of design play, Upcycled Urbanism has been turning heads 'round town. First came a great story by the Georgia Straight's Stephen Thomson:

Museum of Vancouver program invites public to reimagine public spaces

Ready, set, design! Our first Upcycled workshop: image by Kellan Higgens.

Bill Pechet told Thomson that "he hopes the design-and-build day will provoke thought about how the urban landscape can be transformed. 'We hope that it leads to a greater conversation about the use of imaginative ideas in the public realm that aren’t just classic benches or trees, and the occasional bike rack, Pechet told the Straight." Amen!

Next came a thoughtful piece by CP reporter Rebekah Funk, accompanied by great shots by photographer Eric Dreger.

In Photos: Leftover Port Mann Bridge materials reused in Vancouver art

SALA student Minnie Chan shows off scale model of block she designed for Upcycled. Hundreds of giant versions of this block will be used in our design-build event. Metro News image by Eric Dreger.

There are two more chances to join design teams this month. Join us on Sunday, Mar. 17 or Sunday, Mar 24, and to explore how we can transform a public space using giant polystyrene blocks!

 [What is Upcycled Urbanism?]

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Posted by: Charles Montgomery on March 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]

Upcycled Urbanism is off to a roaring start on our journey to design and build new public space interventions, together!

Your block, my block

On March 3 we unveiled prototypes for the building blocks we’ll be using to create our designs. These unique prototypes were designed by Minnie Chan and Jessika Kliewer, students of UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Congratulations, Minnie and Jessika! Your work will be transformed into hundreds of big blocks of expanded polystyrene by our friends at Mansonville Plastics.

SALA students Minnie Chan (left) and Jessika Kliewer (right) introduce their building block prototypes. Image on right: Kellan Higgins.

Designing together

Last week’s workshop was a blast. After a primer on participatory design by Vancouver Design Nerds Marten Sims and Kim Cooper, participants came up with some wild and wonderful ideas for animating moribund spaces in our city. A giant slide. A waterfall from the Burrard Bridge. A giant Pac-Man board on Granville Street. Check out their ideas here

Participants at March 3 workshop present their ideas, including...Human Plinko! (Kellan Higgins image.)

Hallucinating in public

Now it’s time to figure out just how we’ll use these blocks to transform public spaces in Vancouver. This Sunday, March 10, join SALA and Spacing Magazine for the first of three workshops. Workshop leaders promise to lead participants into what they call the hallucinatory state needed to imagine new designs. The mind reels. Join us!

RSVP: http://march10upcycledurbanism.eventbrite.com/

Upcycled Urbanism is a participatory project that invites students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone with a even a smidgen of creativity to reimagine and rebuild parts of Vancouver’s public realm. Working together, teams of participants will design and build prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from the construction of the Port Mann Bridge. 

Upcycled Urbanism is a partnership between Museum of Vancouver (MOV), UBC's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN), Maker Faire Vancouver, and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, the Vancouver Foundation and Mansonville Plastics.

Twitter: #upcycledurbanism

[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]

Posted by: Charles Montgomery on March 1, 2013 at 12:00 am

[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]

This winter MOV and our friends decided it was time to invite everyone to redesign and rebuild part of Vancouver's public realm. The fun starts this Sunday.

Upcycled Urbanism is a participatory project that invites students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone with a even a smidgen of creativity to reimagine and rebuild parts of Vancouver’s public realm. Working together, teams of participants will design and build prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from construction sites around the Lower Mainland. 

The first step for many of us will learning just how we can work with others to imagine our future city together. Hence our first workshop:

Designing Together: the first workshop in MOV's Upcycled Urbanism series

This kickoff event focuses on how to hold a design charrette: a fun, engaging, and inclusive workshop in which experts and community members work together to turn their ideas into pictures and plans. If you've ever wanted to get people together to work on a new idea for your neighbourhood or your city, then this workshop can give you the tools. With guidance from the Vancouver Design Nerds, we'll brainstorm how to bring an underutilized public space to life.

Bonus: Sneak peak of spectacular Upcycled Urbanism building block designs created by students of UBC's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

Mar. 3 Workshop leaders are Vancouver Design Nerds Marten Sims and Kim Cooper.

 

Kim Cooper is a multi-media artist, designer, and creative community facilitator. She is the owner of Kale Creative and a director for both the Vancouver Design Nerds and Vancouver Community Lab Society.

Marten Sims is a trans-disciplinary designer, artist, curator, researcher, facilitator and design faculty member at Emily Carr University. Over the past decade Marten has produced design work with and for a broad range of social, environmental, cultural, media, health, advocacy and science organisations. He was selected this January to City of Vancouver's 'Mayors Citizens Engaged City Task Force'.

Join us!

2:00PM - 4:00PM @ MOV (1100 Chestnut St) 

Please register at:

http://march3upcycledurbanism.eventbrite.com

Twitter: #upcycled urbanism

Upcycled Urbanism is a partnership between Museum of Vancouver (MOV), UBC's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN), Maker Faire Vancouver, and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, the Vancouver Foundation and Mansonville Plastics.

[What is Upcycled Urbanism? Learn more here.]

Posted by: Charles Montgomery on January 7, 2013 at 12:00 am

Have you ever wished you could redesign and rebuild part of Vancouver's public realm?

Architecture and design is an inescapable part of the Vancouver experience, yet there are few chances for people to influence these designs outside of academic settings, City Hall, or architectural offices. Sometimes it can feel like the city and its spaces are created by unseen hands in some faraway design star chamber. And let’s face it: the designs we live with on Vancouver’s streets are not always as creative and risky as they could be.

What if we could invite everyone to re-imagine aspects of urban design and then actually empower them to build prototypes of their ideas? This is the question that gave birth to Upcycled Urbanism: a design+build project for everyone.

What is Upcycled Urbanism?

Upcycled Urbanism is a participatory project that invites students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone with a even a smidgen of creativity to reimagine and rebuild parts of Vancouver’s public realm.

Working together, teams of participants will design and build prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from the construction of the Port Mann Bridge.

Raw material, ready for recycling into public design in the yard at Mansonville Plastics

In the yard at Mansonville Plastics: raw material, ready for recycling into public design.

First, students from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture created building block prototypes. Then, at a series of workshops in March 2013, teams will brainstorm, sketch, and model how to use these blocks for new public design ideas with the help of design experts from our partner organizations. Everyone is welcome. Finally, teams will come together again to actually build their creations at an outdoor design/build spectacle in July. The wider community will be invited to help, critique, encourage the builders, and occupy their creations. Think of it as a combination workshop/street celebration/public art unveiling!

Materials will then be re-recycled for industrial use.

Upcycled Urbanism is a partnership between Museum of Vancouver, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Public Space Network, Maker Faire Vancouver, and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, Mansonville Plastics and the Vancouver Foundation.

Why are we doing it?

By inviting people to re-imagine public art and street amenities, we hope that Upcycled Urbanism will provoke conversations about public realms and design culture in Vancouver, foster collaboration and connection between people of diverse backgrounds and talents, and give participants a greater sense of ownership over the public places they share.

It will also viscerally explore issues of sustainability by removing polystyrene from the waste stream, empowering people to build with it in a large-scale public spectacle, and finally returning the material for further recycling.

Workshops bring people together for design and creation.

How did Upcycled get started?

Upcycled Urbanism began as an idea and grew into a collaborative community effort.

Back in the summer of 2012, we mentioned MOV’s participatory design aspirations to Erick Villagomez, editor of Spacing Vancouver, and he suggested the perfect medium to make this dream come true: expanded polystyrene, or EPS. This material, sometimes incorrectly mistaken for Styrofoam, is super-light and easy to cut into shapes.

Best of all, said Erick, we have a local, green source for it! Langley-based Mansonville Plastics actually diverts blocks of used EPS bound for the landfill and grinds the stuff down in order to produce entirely new, usable blocks. (In 2012, Mansonville supplied the EPS filling for the wondrous Pop Rocks installation at Robson Square.)

Mansonville generously offered to fabricate a mountain of blocks for the project. Then Spacing, Maker Faire Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Space Network, and UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) all came on board as partners.

 SALA’s Bill Pechet offered to put his design studio students to work creating EPS building block prototypes. Then, with a small grant from the Vancouver Foundation, we were off and running.

Who can get involved?

You! One of the project’s goals is to get design experts and students thinking and playing with people from other backgrounds. So whether you want to contribute to the design conversation, help build with the blocks, or just watch, you are welcome to join us during our program in the spring and summer of 2013.

We are limited only by our dreams! Image: Tavis Brown's photostream

Activities:

March workshops @Museum of Vancouver:

Sunday, Mar 3:    Designing Together: a primer on how to give fun, inclusive design workshops

Sunday, Mar 10:  Building Public Hallucinations: a design journey with SALA and Spacing Vancouver

Sunday, Mar 17:  Block Talk: creating spaces that bring people together, with SALA and Vancouver Public Space Network

Sunday, Mar 24:  Shock and Surprise: public design juxtapositions, with SALA and Maker Faire Vancouver

Workshop Time: 2:00pm–4:00pm

July Design build event: watch this space for date/location!

 

 

 

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