Making a Difference
Firm uses strategic design to enhance experiences
By Heather Buchan
While there are numerous initiatives in Toronto aimed at improving our quality of life, one local firm is doing so in a unique way. Called OpenCity Projects, the three-year-old consultancy firm uses strategic design to make public spaces and the communication between Toronto communities more meaningful experiences for everyone. “How we define and interact with our neighbours alters the very way we experience our city,” said Wendy Gold, who founded OpenCity.
Last year, they partnered with the City of Toronto to create a “creative lab,” enlisting industrial design students at the Ontario College of Art and Design to identify opportunities to enhance neighbourhood experiences around the city.
“We had students go to neighbourhoods and, through our research process, identify a problem that we could frame as a creative opportunity,” said Gold. “One student went to Corktown and found that there were some safety issues.”
To create a more welcoming atmosphere, the student proposed a mural installation and public garden that would celebrate the area’s history. “Other students went to Parkdale and found that there was a real social/economic divide between Parkdale and Queen West,” said Gold. One proposed creating appliqué images of the future development of the neighbourhood to put in TTC shelters throughout the area so viewers could see the progression of the area over time. From 80 submitted concepts, 22 were chosen for the Toronto Unbound exhibit last June as part of Luminato. Of those, the top six were chosen by the City of Toronto to be implemented across the city.
Due to the success of last year’s initiative, this year OpenCity Projects has teamed with Luminato, Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity (June 5-14), to present a similar exhibit called Icebreakers — Creating Common Ground by Design. Launching at the Luminato Box, it “explores design and creativity’s crucial roles in breaking down common barriers in the urban environment,” said Gold. “We’re engaged to create really unique public spaces that reflects our diverse cultural community.”