TENT aims to develop long-term relationships with communities to deepen their understanding of local planning opportunities and challenges, connect them with city builders across the City, and enable them to envision and articulate shared visions for their local neighbourhoods.
We know that people care deeply about what happens to their neighbourhood. Not only that, they have detailed knowledge about Toronto’s streets and communities that is needed for good decisions to be made in planning and developing our city. TENT provides a means through which communities can express their highest aspirations for their future.
Urban planning is complex, and the use of technical terms and jargon can make it difficult for new people to join the conversation. It can also be frustrating to provide input to a process that is long and complex, or if you are not sure how (or if) your comments will make a difference.
CCE starts by engaging in plain-language conversations and uses SketchUp, a free 3D modelling tool, to enable residents to add their neighbourhoods to Google Earth. This provides a forum to capture the wisdom and insights that come from the everyday experience of walking down a street. It also provides participants with weekly successes and measurable impacts, as they learn new skills and work on a project together.
As the model of the current neighbourhood grows, the community can begin talking about its possible futures. What do the residents like about the neighbourhood? What would they like to change?
Community members are then brought together with professionals who can demystify urban planning and development, explore possible futures, and create 3D renderings of the community’s own visions for their streets. Practitioners offer current urban planning and design knowledge and expertise, grounding the visions in reality.
Since the people involved in planning and development processes rarely get a chance to interact outside of high-stakes negotiations, CCE also facilitates safe spaces for discussion and knowledge-sharing about city building between community members and professionals of all kinds, community leaders from other neighbourhoods, and City staff.
Thus, TENT enables communities to develop and articulate the current state of their neighbourhood and their shared vision(s) for its future. This provides a basis for dialogue with decision-makers in both the public and private sectors.
CCE believes that the best way to start a productive conversation about the future is to share our knowledge about the present situation. We know that 2D mapping can be a useful tool but that 3D mapping enables more people to join the conversation.
We also believe it is important to reduce as many barriers as possible to full participation in this discussion. SketchUp reduces the following barriers:
- Can we afford it? SketchUp doesn’t cost any money.
- Do we have the right tech? It runs on most computers. It does not require a high-tech computer lab.
- Won’t it be awfully hard? SketchUp was designed with the non-expert in mind. The learning curve is much easier than other 3D programs.
- What will we get out of this? Through the integration of SketchUp and the 3D Warehouse, it is easy to submit your models for consideration on Google Earth. You can put your neighbourhood “on the map.”
- Who owns my work? The models you make in SketchUp and submit to the 3D Warehouse belong to you. You can edit them and delete them. The work of the community stays in the community’s hands.
CCE is harnessing SketchUp to enable communities to share their visions for their neighbourhoods, gain computer skills and confidence in themselves and each other, and to see their neighbourhoods in a new light.
Pilot project in Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park
Phase 1: Putting the Neighbourhood on Google Earth
Since this neighbourhood is far outside of the downtown core, none of the buildings in the neighbourhood had 3D models on Google Earth until this project started. We seized this opportunity to “put the neighbourhood on the map” and explore the current state of the neighbourhood with residents.
In July 2012, CCE met local residents to identify properties they would like to add to Google Earth first. In August 2012, we began meeting 2–3 times a week to photograph the chosen buildings in preparation for digital modelling. We photographed all surfaces of 11 buildings, including two elementary schools, a daycare, two community centres, an office building, and five apartment buildings. While the residents led our walks through the neighbourhood, we informally surveyed the residents about what they liked about the properties we were exploring and what they would like to change about them.
Since September 2012, this group has been attending weekly workshops learning to create models for Google Earth using SketchUp. Our group of “SketchUp Modellers”, including senior citizens, adults, teenagers, and children as young as 8 years old, have been working hard to get East Scarborough “on the map.” This will form the basis for the emerging shared understanding of the community.
Photos of people involved in Phase 1 in KGO: