The City of Calgary has launched an open international ideas contest to rethink the future of its public transport systems (Deadline: 31 October)
Organised by the Design Talks Institute, the competition seeks ‘conceptual and provocative’ proposals which use the city’s new ‘Green Line’ light rail network as a starting point for discussions over how transport could evolve in the coming decades.
The call for concepts features a $15,000 prize fund and is divided into six categories focusing on technology, climate sustainability, memory and context, accessibility, resilience, tactical and temporary, and provocation. The winning schemes will feature in a series of public discussions and exhibitions held in the city next year.
Source: Image by Bernard Spragg
According to the brief: ‘The aim of the call for ideas is to generate new approaches to movement in Calgary. We’re hoping to break down barriers in order to build a more connected, inclusive and accessible city. We’re looking for ideas that consider independence and mobility as a quality of life choice and something connected to not only where we live, but how.
‘The instigation for this call is a new light rail line, the Green Line, that follows the city’s first light rail lines built in the early 1980s. Since considerations around connectivity have evolved in the past few decades, we wanted to provoke this question of movement further into the future. What community connection might be rekindled if the option to live an entire week with everything one needs within 800 metres? How can the nature and scale of a public transit system challenge assumptions of distance and how people gather?’
Located at the confluence of the rivers Bow and Elbow – Calgary is the third largest municipality in Canada with more than 1.2 million residents. The rapidly growing settlement hosts more than 800 km of skywalks, outdoor pathways and bikeways and has been developing a substantial light rail transit system since the early 1980s.
Light rail in Calgary, Canada
Source: Image by Bernard Spragg
Planned to open in 2026, the Green Line is the latest addition to Calgary’s public transport network. The 46-kilometre route will link connect 16th Ave N in Crescent Heights to 126 Ave SE in Shepard, and is expected to serve up to 65,000 passengers daily.
The latest competition aims to boost debate around the present and future of transportation and explore how technology, sustainability and accessibility could influence the development of public infrastructure.
Schemes will be judged on their responsiveness to the contest goals, design excellence, quality of communication, and incorporation of diverse perspectives reflecting various community and public needs.
Judges include Giovanna Borasi of the Canadian Centre for Architecture; Amanda Hurley from CityLab; retired City of Calgary transportation planning director, Don Mulligan; and Shin-pei Tsay from the Gehl Institute.
One overall winner will receive a $5,000 CAD while seven further prizes of $1,500 CAD will also be awarded to the winners of each of the individual categories.
How to apply
The deadline for applications is 31 October
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Amery Calvelli
The executive director of d.talks discusses her ambitions for the competition
Why are your holding an international ideas contest to rethink the future of transport in Calgary?
The Green Line light rail transit in Calgary was the seed for the idea; it offers a platform from which to think about mobility and its relationship to how neighbourhoods are integrated, and how well-being and accessibility are manifested as a result of the connections offered. We worked closely with the City of Calgary and together approached this call at a high level with the aim of demonstrating the role of design thinking in finding a human connection to place.
There are seven categories for the call, with the intent of allowing for diverse ways to connect with the challenge of how we move. Whether the idea is tactical or far-future based, the categories are broad to incorporate a range of thinking around social inclusivity, physical accessibility and heritage considerations. There’s also a place for thinking about climate and new technologies. These become the entry point from which to approach an idea for improving movement. While we’re based in Calgary, we think others are also confronting challenges of connectivity in the urban realm and so opening this call to international participants and sharing the ideas broadly is important.
The proposed Green Line in Calgary, Canada
What is your vision for the future transport solutions for the city?
We’re seeking ideas that consider transportation in terms of the human connection to place. Idea submissions can be produced in the form of two digital boards. The jury will be considering each submission in terms of how the idea is articulated and the design excellence of the idea on two boards. They will also be looking at how it generates a new approach to urban movement for people in the city. Does the idea break down barriers to a more connected, inclusive and accessible city? Sustainability is important, and it’s woven into the context of the brief as one of the seven categories that will be awarded a prize. The ability to demonstrate the social aspect of a sustainable solution, how it affects the public, might align more closely with the goals of the call than a strictly technical solution. There is a resource of links and materials that accompany the final registration process and there is a question period for anything not answered in the handout.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We’re hoping that this call is an opportunity for both established as well as young, emerging practices to exercise their theoretical muscle, to demonstrate design’s role in defining systems that shape urban livability. Some might form their first collaboration with others and use Movement to test a team working process together. For established practices, this might be the chance to engage the office in a conceptual challenge.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
This is an ideas competition and therefore conceptual in nature. The ideas that most successfully capture the jury’s imagination will be produced into an exhibition and published online and with a small print run publication. Our objective is to foster vision and develop public engagement while generating some awareness for the practices that conceived the ideas.
Are there any other recent innovative transport projects you have been impressed by?
As mentioned above, the new Green Line light rail transit project that is in development in Calgary was the seed for the Movement call for ideas. Registered participants will have access to further detail on the project, but generally, this line is a key investment in the city, expected to add 46 kilometres of track to the existing 59-kilometre light rail transit system (www.calgary.ca/greenline).