Institute without Boundaries


IwB Year End Show Teaser: Buttons + Book Excerpt

Check out the awesome COLAB buttons we’ll have at the COLAB IwB Year End Show on Thursday.

Also, we thought we’d give a little teaser from the book.  Don’t tell anyone.

This excerpt is from the intro:

The Major Project for the 2011/2012 academic year was the third year in the City Systems series at the Institute.

As part of this year’s exploration of Edge Cities, students at the IwB spent nine months studying Markham, Ontario, exploring the various systems that make up the municipality and proposing design strategies and key interventions for Highway 7 and the other main streets of Markham.

The IwB design team for 2011/2012 is made up of five students from different professional and international backgrounds. Each applied their distinctive personal experiences and unique combination of abilities to addressing the particular needs of edge cities.

Edge cities emerged in North America during the late 50’s and early 60’s as a result of post-war development patterns and the rise of automobile oriented urban planning. In Toronto, the combined effect of development subsidies offered through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the opening of the 400-series network of superhighways, transformed outlying rural hamlets and villages into suburban residential communities. The history of Markham’s transformation from a collection of small villages to a leading Canadian edge city follows this general trajectory.

Unlike the conventional view of the edge city as a homogeneous suburb, Markham is a city with an incredibly diverse population, a strong sense of civic pride, and a municipal governance structure that is visionary and ambitious. Markham’s position as a high tech capital in Canada and its emphasis on leadership in innovation made this an exciting project partnership. Members of the community, municipal and local business representatives, worked with students throughout the project, acting as advisors during charrettes, reviewing proposals, attending presentations, and providing ongoing feedback and support.

In partnering with Markham, students experienced first hand the challenges that Markham faces as it strives to position itself at the forefront of sustainable urban leadership in Canada. Students explored these challenges through intensive and collaborative design projects, considering issues such as sustainable transportation infrastructure, community cultural cohesion and youth retention, intensification through live/work residential development, and supporting creative industry hubs.

During these design projects, key insights emerged:  for innovative ideas to take root, one must work from within a community rather than alongside it; innovation arises in environments that embrace interdisciplinary  collaboration, experimentation and divergent thinking; addressing complex urban problems requires a systems-thinking approach.

The 2012 City Systems team proposes a forward looking strategy. We propose COLAB: A Change Lab for Markham. COLAB is an interdisciplinary design solutions unit drawing on the resources of the municipality, the dynamism of the private sector and the wisdom of the community to research, design, develop and prototype innovative solutions for 21st century urban challenges. In this proposal, we will demonstrate the usefulness and suitability of change labs for confronting complex urban-scale issues by highlighting our year’s work, explaining the key insights that lead to us to this proposal, and outlining the requirements, processes and strategies necessary to establish COLAB within Markham. Two case studies are presented as models illustrating how a functioning COLAB would use design innovation to tackle small and large scale main street revitalizations.

9 Months in Review

By IwB Student Asma Khanani Caporaletti

In August 2011, the City Sytems Year 3 class at the Institute without Boundaries was introduced to our project partner for the next 9 months - the Town of Markham. Located on the northern border of the city of Toronto, Markham was a surprise to us all – what problem could the affluent Town of Markham possibly have that was so decidedly “wicked”? Perhaps, we learned, one of the most wicked.

With its roots in farming and rail, Markham is strong in its business and financial sectors and is identified as ‘Canada’s High-Tech Capital’. Also home to a diverse population of immigrants from all over the world, Markham is a young city that has grown in a short amount of time and typical suburban sprawl quickly developed over Markham.  As designers we are faced with the overwhelming task of revitalizing Markham’s main streets along Highway 7 through a series of small punctuated interventions over time.

On June 7 at 4pm, Markham leaves its identity as a Town behind and forges a new identity as an edge-city and for this years’ thesis: COLAB. Join us as we set a precedent for Markham as a new kind of post-suburban city.


Blast from the Past: Worldhouse Year 2 Yearbook

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More digging through the archives revealed the IwB Class of 2007.
World House Year 2

Melissa Amarelo
Stine Laurberg Hansen
Ana Hindelang
Karl Robert Johnson
Connor White Malloy
Michael McMartin
Teresa Miller
Krista Pallen
Bradley Schnell
Mark Stevens
Mark Watson

Imagine COLAB Here

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Psssst…we’ll be revealing details about the COLAB, IwB Year End Exhibition tomorrow.  For now, check out these research photos of potential sites in Markham.  Imagine COLAB here.

Blast from the Past: World House Year 1 Yearbook

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We were trolling through our archives and found this photo of the World House Year 1 students, circa 2006. Where are they now?

Student Roster World House Year 1

Evelyne Au-Navioz
Gavin Baxter
Kar Yan Cheung
Liz Huntly-Cooke
Reema Kanwar
Jennifer Lee
Thomas Lommée
Richard Macintosh
Gary Moloney
Heidi Nelson
Carmen Paz
Giorgiana Peñon
Perin Ruttonsha
Sarah Tranum
Garth Tweedie

Neighbourhood Branding System by Nikki Hsiao Chi Shih

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Check out this conceptual branding project by IwB student Nikki Hsiao Chi Shih.

The branding strategy is to look into the cultural elements as metaphor, as well as the organic shapes and patterns of the neighborhood, integrating them into one symbolic entity of the neighborhood.   The design is the process that allows the city to symbolize neighborhoods by applying the intergration of these two elements- culture and landscape.

Click here to download the PDF.

Join our Newsletter to win an IwB Book Prizepack!

Sign up for our newsletter by Tuesday April 17th, 2012 at 11am and you will be entered into a draw to win this IwB Book prize-pack.  Books include, Canada Innovates: Sustainable Building, Souvenir and the School of Design Biennial 2006-2008.  The IwB newsletter will keep you in touch with all the awesome conceptual and real-world projects that we produce through our three divisions, Education, Consulting and Special Projects.

All you have to do is fill in your email below and hit “Subscribe”.

Don’t worry, if you’re already signed up for the newsletter you can still win. Just get a friend to sign up and email Jeremy and let him know their email, and you’ll be entered into the draw.

Smart Shift: A new approach to infrastructure

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From today’s Financial Post, an article by Denise Deveau on the some of the current infrastructure issues faced in many Canadian cities:

ISSUE: Canadian cities need to replace their aging infrastructure to accommodate new weather patterns, shifting demographics and social trends

SHIFT: Collaborative planning that transcends municipal departments and develops a holistic approach to emerging challenges is putting a new spin on infrastructure development


“The infrastructure model was developed from ideas that date back to the 19th century, were pioneered in the 1920s and didn’t come into use until the 1950s,” says Luigi Ferrara, director of the Centre for Arts & Design at George Brown College in Toronto.

At the time it was all about spreading out neighbourhoods and creating zones for industry and commercial activities, with a few parks thrown into the mix, he says. “What we are building is simply too heavy for this society to bear and not allowing us to go forward.”

Read the full article here

A New Pattern Language by Asma Khanani Caporaletti

In this concept IwB student Asma Khanani Caporaletti proposes to connect the diverse community of the Town of Markham by creating a pattern language, which communicates a collective identity through streetscape aesthetic, symbolic of history, migration and growth.

To download the concept presentation click here.

Pecha Kucha: Lota

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IwB 2011 Alumni Jamie Black & Payam Shalchian presented the Lota project at the recent Pecha Kucha night here in Toronto. This rapid-paced 20×20 presentation technique has become a popular presentation style and it is a great way to showcase project work. Jamie & Payam shared this presentation with an enthusiastic crowd on February 23rd at the Garrison here in Toronto.

Read more about pecha kucha nights.

Read more about the Lota project.

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About the IWB

The Institute without Boundaries is a Toronto-based studio that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation. To learn more click here.

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