Cities don’t become exceptional by accident. URBANARIUM provides Metro Vancouver with an intelligent platform for dialogue around urban planning and identifying areas to be celebrated or improved upon.
A community-wide challenge
Many decisions that shape a city are made by a limited number of people with vested interests — such as politicians seeking to construct monumental legacies or developers looking to maximize their return on investment. The people who have typically been left out of the conversation are those who must, literally, live with the consequences: regular citizens.
The Vancouver Urbanarium Society seeks to increase the brainpower involved in key decision making by engaging the broader community in discussions and providing them with reliable, unbiased information.
It was only fitting that we became engaged in this project through our association with Post Projects— a design firm we shared downtown office space with.
Engaging the community
The Smartmap is a digital tool designed to get people talking about their urban surroundings and contribute to the ongoing conversation.
It starts off by asking a simple yet provocative question: “What place, space or building do you think is smart or not so smart in your city?” Users can also begin the process by dropping a pin on the map for a specific location they feel motivated to talk about. Photographs can be added as well— to provide additional clarity and sway.
Anyone who visits the site can vote anonymously in favour of any point of view they discover on the Smartmap, or feel inspired to add their own fresh point of view.
The Smartmap is constantly evolving over time, which makes it an increasingly useful tool for people to check in with to discover what’s going on in the city.
Functionality comes from what is essentially an annotation layer that sits ontop of a stylized version of Google Maps. By combining the two interfaces, we have created an entirely new way of communicating and thinking about the city.
By using the Smartmap, visitors to the site simultaneously learn and share—what they think about—urban planning, architecture and design.
An ongoing conversation
The data set within the Urbanarium Smartmap is questionspecific and the infrastructure is easily extendable, meaning that—once the original Smartmap is filled with information—the Vancouver Urbanarium Society can easily create a new Smartmap (to answer a different question) that adds to and expands on the broader discussion.
So, rather than simply grumbling about an aspect of the city that bugs us (individually) we can all contribute something meaningful to the conversation on how to make life in Metro Vancouver even better in ways no individual (or special interest group) could ever imagine.