What if citizens could present new ideas for public space by actually building them on a city street using giant building blocks? This is the question that drove this ambitious Museum of Vancouver collaboration conceived and led by Happy City principal Charles Montgomery, and involving four other community partners and hundreds of participants.

First, architecture students created building block prototypes. Then, at a series of workshops, members of the public brainstormed how to use these blocks for new public design ideas with the help of design experts from partner organizations. Finally, teams came together to assemble their creations at a full-day design and build spectacle.

Upcycled Urbanism ultimately touched thousands of people. It provoked conversations about public realms and design culture. The project also viscerally explored issues of sustainability by diverting polystyrene from the waste stream, utilizing it temporarily, then returning the material for further recycling.

Upcycled Urbanism was a partnership between Museum of Vancouver, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Public Space Network, Vancouver Maker Faire and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, Mansonville Plastics and the Vancouver Foundation.