Sudbury’s McEwen School of Architecture is inviting dreamers with a vision for the city’s urban core to share their ideas as part of a new global design contest.
Launched in March, Sudbury 2050 – Urban Design Ideas Competition is open to designers, architects, urban planners, engineers, environmentalists – anyone who wants to provide input about the future development of the community.
School director David Fortin said the concept first took root in May 2019 after Sudbury declared a climate change emergency.
“A lot of people have been questioning what does that mean when a city declares a climate change emergency and how that could impact the development of a city moving forward, and so a lot of our conversations were centred around that initially."
The arrival of COVID-19 in mid-March added an interesting layer to the dialogue, he added.
“People started asking, well, what does a city start to look like post-COVID, or in a pandemic future, so that happened to be timely in a sense.”
It’s rare for a mid-sized city like Sudbury to be the subject of this type of competition, Fortin said. They’re more commonly reserved for world-class cities.
But design competitions can breed unique and creative ideas, opening up the potential for an expanded view of the city that stretches beyond the scope of local planners.
“The wonderful thing about competitions is that they’re not tied to any kind of agenda; I think of them almost like dream laboratories,” Fortin said.
“You’re doing collective dreaming, and you’re allowing people that aren’t even from the place to offer their outsider views on what the potentials are, and also, hopefully, having a lot of the community be engaged in that conversation, too.”
With another 11 weeks still to go before the Aug. 28 competition deadline, 330 teams from 58 countries representing all reaches of the globe have already registered, Fortin said.
As outlined in the submission guidelines, participants should take into consideration some of the architecture school’s guiding principles, like employing regenerative design – things like green roofs or buildings that produce and store energy on site – or using wood as a key building material to support the regional forestry industry.
“We’re planting those seeds because you have to think of everything together as one holistic system, because you’re talking 30, 40, 50 years down the road,” Fortin said.
“You can use ideas as catalysts to stimulate economies and to impact the city in different ways.”
Participants are also being provided some context about the major projects that are either in the planning stages, or already under construction, he added.
There are plans on the books for The Junction, a city-owned complex comprising a library, conference and performance centre, and art gallery, while Place des Arts, a $30-million francophone arts and performance centre, is already under construction.
A jury of architects, academics and community members will be selected shortly, and there’s even prize money for the top entrants in three categories: $50,000 will go to the winning concept in the open category; the top student entry will take home $10,000; and the people’s choice winner, as voted on by the public, will win $3,000.
Describing Sudbury as a “passionate place” where people like to speak up and have their ideas heard, Fortin expects lots of feedback from the community and a robust conversation about what’s next for the city.
“The idea is that probably none of (the submissions) will hit every mark, but some are going to show us things that no one here is really thinking about, and others will miss the mark entirely,” he said.
“But the point is that when you collect all of that and actually reflect on that, it can start to create a better image of what we collectively want for the city."
Though there isn’t a formal agreement in place between the school and the city, Fortin said the city has been receptive to the project and will work with the school to get the project boards on display for review by the public.
“I certainly feel like the city’s open to reviewing this and listening to people and seeing how the community reacts to it."