Reimagining The City: Lectures


Title of Project :

Re-imagining the City Lecture Series

Funding : Concordia University Aids to Research related Events (ARRE)

Responsible :

Carmela Cucuzzella

Cynthia Hammond

Students :

Pascal Xavier Poirier

Michael Maclean


This series of workshops is seeking to bring together speakers from a variety of disciplines and professions that look at climate change not as a constraint, not as a moralizing imperative, but rather as an opportunity for identifying new economies, new business ventures, new markets, new ways of making, new ways of doing, new ways of living, new ways of being in the city.  We are asking each of our guest speakers to reflect on the question of:  How can we reinvent or reimagine the city in the face of climate change? We are seeking ideas that leap out of the everyday and into a new future. With this in mind, we are looking at innovative ways of how people can live, work, play, relax, create, learn, interact, belong, move around, etc., in the city in the face of climate change.

​This series of workshops builds on environmental design as it has developed in the past 50 years. In the 1960s, the drive towards holistic approaches of public and individual human settlements gave rise to the idea of environmental design, as a means to transcend the boundaries between various design disciplines: architecture, landscape, urban and product design (Sanoff & Cohn, 1975). This first “environmentalism” culminated, amongst other manifestations, in the formation of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) founded in 1968. In the 1970s, environmentalism started to shift towards an ecological ideology soon dominated by technical solutions (Jonas, 1985; Naess, 1973). This technological turn was driven by highly structured principles in the search for efficiency (Birkeland, 2008; Fletcher & Goggin, 2001; Tischner et al, 2000; Madge, 1997). The important work done during this time resulted in many innovative frameworks, standards[1] and technologies[2]. This focus on technological efficiency, on reducing and recycling, is representative of incremental improvements to the status quo of development. These incremental shifts have been fundamental for not only cleaning up some environmental conditions but also in raising awareness. At the turn of this century however, the technological emphasis for efficiency, systematically developed throughout the 1980s and 1990s, started to reveal new challenges (Cucuzzella, 2009; Rossi, 2004; Orr, 2002; Papanek, 2000; Parsons, 1995). Of course these approaches continue to be inescapable, but rather than fighting climate change through these incremental approaches alone, we advocate a paradigm of working with climate change as an inherent systemic opportunity – look at it as a way to open up a new future for the city.

Key Words:

climate change,
public space interventions,
urban renewal,
urban innovation,
integrated design,
sustainable transport and mobility,
systemic thinking,
participatory design


In a reflection that brings together a series of professionals, academics, policy makers, and students around the questions of design, the city and the urgency of climate change today, I propose a lecture series for 2015-2016 that seeks to bridge theory and practice of sustainable design for the built environment. This urgency is a reflection of the Quebec government’s current strategy on climate change adaptation.[3] In June of 2015, the Conférence de Montréal 20e Édition, an international economic forum of the Americas, focused on social responsibility, sustainable economy, systemic frameworks, including innovation, flexibility, and diversity as important characteristics of enterprises of the future. The 2015 Sommet de Montréal sur l’innovation (SMI), of which I was a key organizer, focused on climate change and the city. As a symbol of its commitment to urban resilience, Montreal has been chosen to join the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities for 2015. In fact, Montreal will be testing a version of the electric bus in the fall of 2016 to show that it is on track on this commitment.


[1] Life Cycle Analysis [LCA] (1971), and Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design [LEED] (1993), among many others
[2] Specifically end-of-pipe cleanup technologies – technologies that clean up the pollution emitted by manufacturing processes
[3] 2013-2020 Government Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation: A collective effort to strengthen the resilience of Quebec society, June 2012, Quebec in Action Greener by 2020

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