Landscape Architecture

Team sparks renewal of Kelowna’s unlikely places

Riding on the heels of successful downtown Kelowna laneway renewal, team gears up for temporary installations

Laneway_Portrait_newSiteResidents of Kelowna may soon see pop up installations rising throughout the city.

Following a successful summertime experiment that transformed a vacant laneway in downtown Kelowna into a bustling centre for cultural and civic engagement, a team of architects, engineers and artists are envisioning smaller temporary installations in several urban areas.

The City of Kelowna has indicated that it will support the group’s future actions through infrastructure and insurance given the demonstrated success of its Laneway Project last summer. This marks a feat in placemaking — collaborative citizen-led actions that reimagine and reclaim public space — as insurance was previously denied for an international Park(ing) day event the team previously had in the works.

“Small actions can generate real change,” reflects Elizabeth Balderston. “Sometimes you need to take a calculated risk to make change happen.

“Don’t wait for someone else to do it; it won’t happen — act now!” she urges.

The senior landscape architect at Urban Systems feels especially enthusiastic about such collaborative and proactive efforts following her experience working with the small team that pushed the boundaries of what was previously an unused laneway.

Over the period of one month, she teamed up with local landscape architects, artists and neighbouring business owners to plan a temporary installation in the laneway so that it coincided with the Downtown Kelowna Association’s (DKA) Block Party in August. Days before the event, they cleaned the alley in two evenings, then painted it on the night before the event. They set up everything else in the morning before the block party opened at 10am.

Hundreds of green balls — which were initially shipped to northern B.C. by mistake — arrived the night before the block party, keeping the ball team up all night drilling holes and stringing them together so they hung from the laneway parapets.

The Laneway Project successfully gathered diverse groups of people including visits from several council members. It was so successful, Balderston notes, that the City is now exploring opportunities to sell or lease the space out to adjacent restaurants.

The project also ignited a proposal by the City’s Heritage Committee to develop the laneway as an “outdoor heritage park.” The idea is to take a landscaped approach, using plaques, sculptures and interactivity to provide information about the waterfront, ferries, adjacent Bernard Ave and Chinatown.

What seems like a daunting task becomes a doable one with team collaboration, Balderston says. She encourages more citizens to get involved in the renewal of public spaces for the benefit of community building and the city at large.

“Many hands make light work — build camaraderie with a group of like-minded people and have fun!”

Visit the BC Society of Landscape Architects Facebook Page to view more photos from the Laneway Project. BCSLA may hold another installation in conjunction with the BC Land Summit in Vancouver, May 14-16.

This story is part two of a series focused on placemaking and other citizen led initiatives. Read other entries in this series here:
1) Citizens stepping up to reshape public spaces
3) Designing and making choices as a community – that’s placemaking
4) Animating public spaces can inspire, rather than drive, sustainability
5) New convening role for municipalities
6) Placemaking in practice: local history enriches an Edmonton Park
7) City of Victoria lays groundwork for deeper citizen engagement
8) Growing shift among communities focuses on stronger resident engagement and reducing the “role” of local government

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