Design for Diversity – Celebrate the Differences

dancing balloons ken

At OpenCity, we have spent the last seven years learning about what motivates diverse people to spend time in a place and connect with others. Design for Diversity is a new way of viewing, planning and designing public space through a lens of inclusion and diversity. Over the coming weeks we will unpack the Design for Diversity manifesto to ease planners and city lovers into the practice. In this post, we address the importance of “celebrating the differences” – the eighth point in our manifesto. 

An essential component when Designing for Diversity in public spaces is celebration of diversity – a visible representation of cultures. We see this in Kensington market or Regent Park, where the street art represents a multitude of cultural references and identities. There are very strong visual cues that this space has been influenced by a variety of people of different ethnicities and cultures.


This is also evident in semi-public spaces, such as the Ontario Art Gallery, where a recent exhibit showcased the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat – a mixed Haitian- Puerto Rican American artist. During the exhibit, many local performance artists of colour were integrated into the exhibition. As a result a much more culturally diverse audience attended the exhibit. This illustrates that when a diversity of cultures are celebrated and made visible, there is a great invitation and desire to participate in and be a part of those spaces.

Celebration of diversity, can be done through a variety of ways, through art, performances, cultural celebrations, food, or the design and infrastructure of a public space. However, when integrating and celebrating this diversity it has to be done in an authentic way. It is important that it is not done for communities, but done with or by them. This helps to catalyze feelings of belonging and ownership – which in turn encourage a sense of civic engagement and participation.

Photos by Michi McCloskey, Wendy Gold and the City of Toronto from Flickr CC

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