Data

General Issues
Housing
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Arts, Culture, & Recreation
Specific Topics
Right to Adequate Housing
Land Use
Location
Vancouver
British Columbia
Canada
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Purpose/Goal
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Research
Approach
Social mobilization
Citizenship building
Research
Spectrum of Public Participation
Not applicable or not relevant
Total Number of Participants
150
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
General Types of Methods
Participatory arts
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
Research or experimental method
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Plan, map and/or visualise options and proposals
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Participatory Arts
Collaborative Design
Prototyping
Idea Jam
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Storytelling
Informal Social Activities
Information & Learning Resources
Not Relevant to this Type of Initiative
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Primary Organizer/Manager
Vancouver Design Nerds
Type of Organizer/Manager
Individual
Community Based Organization
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
VIVA Vancouver, HCMA Architecture + Design
Type of Funder
Government-Owned Corporation
For-Profit Business
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Implementers of Change
Lay Public
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Links
Citizen Spaces: Experiments in Reclaiming the Right to the City

CASE

The Vancouver Bubble

First Submitted By Jesi Carson, Participedia Team

Most Recent Changes By Jesi Carson, Participedia Team

General Issues
Housing
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Arts, Culture, & Recreation
Specific Topics
Right to Adequate Housing
Land Use
Location
Vancouver
British Columbia
Canada
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Purpose/Goal
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Research
Approach
Social mobilization
Citizenship building
Research
Spectrum of Public Participation
Not applicable or not relevant
Total Number of Participants
150
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
General Types of Methods
Participatory arts
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
Research or experimental method
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Plan, map and/or visualise options and proposals
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Participatory Arts
Collaborative Design
Prototyping
Idea Jam
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Storytelling
Informal Social Activities
Information & Learning Resources
Not Relevant to this Type of Initiative
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Primary Organizer/Manager
Vancouver Design Nerds
Type of Organizer/Manager
Individual
Community Based Organization
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
VIVA Vancouver, HCMA Architecture + Design
Type of Funder
Government-Owned Corporation
For-Profit Business
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Implementers of Change
Lay Public
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Links
Citizen Spaces: Experiments in Reclaiming the Right to the City

The Vancouver Bubble is an inflatable pop-up installation produced by the Vancouver Design Nerds to transform public spaces into "Citizen Spaces" by acting as a platform for community engaged programming and dialogue.

Problems and Purpose

Citizen spaces can empower participants by allowing them to exercise their right to the city. The Vancouver Bubble was an experiment in reclaiming the right to the city through the short-term transformation of an underused public space. The inflatable urban invention was produced by Emily Carr University of Art + Design student Jesi Carson as part of her master’s thesis. Including multiple levels of participation in its design and production, the Bubble was intended to create opportunities for building community connections and promoting dialogue about urban public space.[1] The use of an inflatable structure offered a dual metaphor for visitors to consider, referring to both the unaffordability of the “housing bubble,” and social isolation of “living in our own bubble.”[2] Deployed at several events around the city, the Bubble housed various types of programming and participatory art where the aim was to generate a discursive temporary public space welcoming all citizens, focusing on engaging youth in the community.[3]

Background History and Context

Vancouver is known for being an expensive and isolating city. Real estate prices have skyrocketed in the last few decades, pricing out many locals and resulting in gentrification of traditional cultural communities like Chinatown. Census data and studies by the Vancouver Foundation indicate that Vancouver is a socially isolating place to live. Under these conditions, the right to the city is threatened. Long-term transformations of public space for community use in Vancouver are uncommon, and often the most necessary of these sustained citizen spaces exist under threat of demolition, such as Tent Cities. In response, a number of temporary, pop-up interventions have emerged, often with the goal of connecting isolated Vancouverites. Following this trend, the Vancouver Bubble was an experiment in reclaiming the right to the city through the short-term transformation of an underused public space. The Bubble was organized by Jesi Carson as part of her master’s thesis on the question: “How do initiatives of grassroots participation and art and design activism help citizens reclaim their right to the city and promote localized collective empowerment?”[4]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The Vancouver Bubble was produced by the Vancouver Design Nerds, a non-profit society dedicated to addressing a wide range of urban issues through participatory engagement and design. VDN partnered with HCMA Architecture + Design and their Tilt Curiosity Lab to apply for grant funding in the summer of 2017. VIVA Vancouver awarded $5,000 to produce the project.[5] The first public iteration of the Vancouver Bubble at POP! A Rainy Day Refuge in January 2018 was a collaboration with Frida&Frank, local placemakers that host public ping pong events, and CityHive, an organization focused on youth engagement.[6]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The design team led by VDN and all collaborators and volunteers involved in the project since it was envisioned in 2018 were essentially participants in a community building exercise all along, forging connections and friendships during the process that continue to spark collaborations today. The partnerships that formed were at once organic and selective, as connections among team members led to various iterations of design activities and event production outcomes. For example, a connection to HCMA led to a joint funding application, and the Vancouver Bubble Design Jam was hosted at Tilt Curiosity Lab. This idea jam was publicized on social media by VDN and HCMA, with free registration via Eventbrite, and was attended by approximately 40 participants who were interested in the hands-on prototyping process of designing an inflatable installation. Another mutual connection led to collaboration with Frida&Frank, whose founders worked directly with the VDN team to design and build the Vancouver Bubble's first installation, drawing on insight from the previous idea jam. This installation, called "POP! Get out of your bubble and into ours" Was part of Frida&Frank's "Winteraction" event in January 2018, and was well attended by over 200 participants. By chance, CityHive, a youth engagement organization, had lost their potential site for their Winteraciton event, and because the Vancouver Bubble had space for programming, we were able to host their storytelling event during our installation inside the Vancouver Bubble. There were chance encounters that led to productive participation throughout the life of this installation, and it continues to evolve. POP! was advertised on social media, and also saw attendance from passers by on the street, as the installation was publicly accessible under the Cambie Bridge in Vancouver. POP! volunteers also served as "Bubble Bouncers" opening the zipper entrance and inviting folks inside to participate.

Methods and Tools Used

This experiment included multiple levels of participation, including an Idea Jam as part of a longer collaborative design, prototyping, and production process. As a participatory art installation, the Bubble was also intended to create opportunities for building community connections and promote dialogue within a citizen space.[7]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Participatory Design

The participatory design process for the Vancouver Bubble began with a public design jam at the office of HCMA Architecture + Design, where Jesi Carson presented the project parameters and possible sites as well as her research interests. After group brainstorming and prototyping, five teams presented ideas for form and programming of an inflatable installation. The concept that stood out the most was the idea of the bubble as a replicable "platform" for various types of community programming. The final design was a simple, inflatable shape that could be open to interpretation and animated through activities such as participatory engagement, dialogue, music, lighting and projection.[8]

Public Installation

The first public iteration of the Vancouver Bubble was part of the winteration event POP! A Rainy Day Refuge on January 27th, 2018 under the Cambie Street Bridge. The installation, titled POP! Get out of your bubble and into ours, was focused around the theme of public space to anchor opportunities for facilitation and dialogue within the programming. A design jam was held on the theme, asking participants to share memories of public space experiences in Vancouver, and work together to envision what else the Vancouver Bubble could be.

CityHive also hosted a storytelling event inside the inflatable citizen space, where youth storytellers shared their own personal public space love stories, followed by a facilitated dialogue session about youth engagement in public space. Finally, local soundscape artists Soft Fit and Big Zen activated the Vancouver Bubble with ambient music, illuminated by a lighting installation by Hfour.[9]

The Bubble made its second public appearance in May 2018 as part of Vancouver Design Week, and popped up again in that winter as part of Lumiere Vancouver.[10]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The Bubble transformed an underused site into a citizen space, allowing participants to exercise their right to the city, and creating opportunities for dialogue and youth engagement within a temporary intervention of design activism. The installation has since "popped up" in additional sites in Vancouver, with intentional programming designed to foster community engagement, dialogue and connectedness that may lead to empowered collectivity and downstream positive social change.[11]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The Vancouver Bubble project was an opportunity to experiment with the form of urban-scale interventions and learn the opportunities and limitations of public space activation-based engagement in the Vancouver context. By using a participatory design process and engaging a large number of volunteers to design and build the intervention, the Bubble offered a unique opportunity for collaboration and the formation of new social constellations. Since the POP! event, organizers and volunteers have re-grouped and produced additional iterations, illustrating how the process of intervention built a community around itself and allowed participants to begin to reclaim their right to the city through grassroots participation, design activism and creating citizen spaces.[12]

The experimental citizen space engaged a number of visitors in conversations through facilitated programming and the transformation of public space. While it is possible for short-term interventions to become citizen spaces by balancing light hearted engagement with conversations and community awareness about important issues, the Bubble’s lead designer, Jesi Carson, cautions that long-term transformations of public space for community use can and should be explored in contexts where space is at a premium, like Vancouver:

“In particular the transformation of space to meet the urgent needs of marginalized communities should be considered. Long-term transformations offer sustained engagement, empowering citizens to take ownership over community spaces and form long-term social bonds through the process of reclaiming their right to the city. Community needs inform the use of particular sites, including factors such as their suitability for short-term intervention or long-term transformation. Both interventions and transformations offer benefits, including opportunities for new social interactions in public space as well as temporary or sustained engagement in the physical transformation of a site for community use.”[13]

See Also

Participatory Art

Prototyping

Idea Jam

Vancouver Design Nerds

References 

[1] Carson, Jesi, “Citizen Spaces: Experiments in Reclaiming the Right to the City”, Core77 Design Awards, 2019, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

[2] Carson, Jesi. Citizen Spaces: Experiments in Reclaiming the Right to the City. 2018. Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Master's thesis. pg. 41. Available at: https://jesicarson.com/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City-2018

[3] Carson, Citizen Spaces, 41-2.

[4] Carson, “Citizen Spaces,” Core77 Design Awards, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

[5] Carson, Citizen Spaces, 41.

[6] Vancouver Design Nerds, “Vancouver Bubble”, http://dev.designnerds.org/project/vancouver-bubble/

[7] Carson, Citizen Spaces, 41.

[8] Carson, “Citizen Spaces,” Core77 Design Awards, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

[9] Carson, “Citizen Spaces,” Core77 Design Awards, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

[10] Vancouver Design Nerds, “Vancouver Bubble”, http://dev.designnerds.org/project/vancouver-bubble/

[11] Carson, “Citizen Spaces,” Core77 Design Awards, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

[12] Carson, “Citizen Spaces,” Core77 Design Awards, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

[13] Carson, “Citizen Spaces,” Core77 Design Awards, https://designawards.core77.com/Built-Environment/83070/Citizen-Spaces-Experiments-in-Reclaiming-the-Right-to-the-City

External Links

The Vancouver Design Nerds Official Website

winteraction Facebook Event Page

Notes