George Brown College students and faculty help City of Chicago tackle sustainability issues in underserved communities

Exclusive Earth Day exhibition features interdisciplinary design collaboration between George Brown College's Institute without Boundaries, Illinois Institute of Technology and the City of Chicago

TORONTO, April 22, 2014 /CNW/ - To commemorate Earth Day, students and faculty from George Brown College's Institute without Boundaries (IwB) today revealed the results of an interdisciplinary consultation process focused on revitalizing three derelict and underserved Chicago neighbourhoods to promote urban renewal and community engagement. West Englewood, Englewood and Woodlawn are featured in the city's Green Healthy Neighbourhoods plan.

In partnership with the City of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago Architecture Foundation and Cannon Designs, the IwB led a design charrette in early April 2014 that connected students with community groups, stakeholders and advisors. Through brainstorming and expert consultation during the charrette, students developed concepts, prototypes and refined solutions aimed at creating healthy, sustainable urban communities in these three neighbourhoods.

"Engaging students and residents in designing healthier, more competitive and more sustainable Chicago neighborhoods brings great insights and real opportunities," says Karen Wiegert, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago.  "We congratulate all involved in envisioning a more sustainable city."

Based on the themes of urban agriculture, arts and culture, health and wellness, 21st century main street revitalization and decentralized advanced manufacturing, the students' designs recommended:

  • Expanding farmers markets and providing produce grown in the area in corner stores to transform Englewood into a productive and resilient community through urban agriculture.
  • Creating a new Chicago loop/arts promenade within the vacant lots in the Washington Park neighbourhood to provide a safe and accessible space promoting the local economy and spurring creativity.
  • Teaching residents to design and manufacture safe and sustainable housing, bicycles for inter-neighbourhood transportation and retaining facilities for the products made in the area to create jobs and be a catalyst for positive change.
  • Leveraging partnerships with the city and building new partnerships with educational institutions and private enterprise to connect residents with "urban rooms" on empty lots that promote play (sports), movement (walking/biking paths), work (urban gardens/education), and rest (libraries/art spaces).
  • Leveraging existing facilities and building new infrastructure on main street to revitalize green spaces, create natural storm waterways and produce sustainable energy and light to create safer, more accessible areas.

"Our students from the Institute without Boundaries are bringing green urban design and infrastructure to meet a real inner-city need," says Luigi Ferrera, Acting Dean, Arts and Design, George Brown College.  "The concepts our students developed for the City of Chicago are not only innovative and sustainable, they are solutions that can be replicated by communities in any number of cities to connect open spaces, spur community activation and improve neighbourhoods."

This initiative is part of a larger IwB Regional Ecologies project looking at how gateway cities - Toronto, New York and Chicago - operate within their regional contexts and how they are connected to each other.

About The Institute without Boundaries

Founded in 2003, the Institute without Boundaries (IwB) is a Toronto-based studio at George Brown College that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation.

Using a collaborative design charrette approach, the IwB brings together students, community members and industry professionals to develop innovative solutions for complex issues.  Through brainstorming, discussion and expert consultation teams create a broad range of practical and comprehensive ideas around a central theme. By working together, charrettes inspire participants to discover feasible solutions that meet the greater needs of a community.

About George Brown College

Toronto's George Brown College has established a reputation for equipping students with the skills, industry experience and credentials to pursue the careers of their choice. The college offers programs from its three campuses located across the downtown core, including its newest location at the Toronto waterfront, which opened in September 2012. George Brown offers 135 full-time programs and 189 continuing education certificates/designations across a wide variety of professions to a student body of over 24,500 (full-time equivalent) students, including over 3,200 international students; and over 61,000 continuing education registrants. Students can earn certificates, diplomas, postgraduate certificates, apprenticeships and degrees.

SOURCE: George Brown College

For further information:

or to arrange an interview with Karen Wiegert, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago and/or Luigi Ferrera, Acting Dean, Arts and Design, George Brown College, please contact:

Jodi Salem
George Brown College
Tel: 416.415.5000 ext.3767

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