Drawing in new ideas, new aspirations for our city's evolving neighbourhoods

Posted on June 14th, 2018

Ane (left) and her teacher, Ms. Mandy Krahn, in front of student designs for infill.
Ane (left) and her teacher, Ms. Mandy Krahn, in front of student designs for infill.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say that I want to see more creative houses that can be enjoyed by different families - that are colourful, fun and have lots of cool designs."

This sentiment, from grade five student Ane Mapurisa, emerged as a result of an Infill Design Competition held by the City of Edmonton. The competition, which sought design ideas for low-scale infill in Edmonton's core and mature neighbourhoods, also invited youth from across the city to doodle and envision their ideal infill housing type. Despite the competition ending in 2016, Mapurisa and her classmates in North Glenora's Coronation School, continued to deliver their drawings to the City in the winter of 2018.

Mapurisa's teacher, Mandy Krahn, encouraged her students to draw their infill ideas as part of their Social Students curriculum, and in response to changing demographics and spurred development in the neighbourhood.

"Recently, a townhouse-style development for newcomers to Canada opened across the street from Coronation School, which put our community in the news. This inspired us to consider adding our own voices to the conversation," Krahn says. "While our class explored the history of housing in the neighbourhood, through the Infill Design Competition, it was also a chance to blend in opportunities for art and writing. The students drew a variety of housing types, always considering the needs of their neighbours as well as their own."

Photo Credit: Anne Huizinga

With the address, AM640, in bold and visible typeface, Mapurisa's home featured a community fountain and barbeque in the backyard, as well as six windows with varying motifs and two balconies facing the street.

"It might look like it's a lot, but at the end of the day, it's about community," Mapurisa says. "For the neighbours that think it's too big: it's welcoming and you have the same view as before."

While Mapurisa's (and many of her classmates) infill home employed a non-traditional design approach, she maintains that it still fits and works within the existing neighbourhood.

"I think our houses were inspired by what you wouldn't see normally but they're still homes you would want to live in. That's important because you wouldn't pick out a holiday sweater for your best friend that you thought was weird or ugly! My idea is different from the other homes in the neighbourhood - a bit in between the old and cozy neighbourhoods of the past, and the newer homes that just opened up five to ten years ago."

When asked about who could potentially live in this house and in the ones drawn by her classmates, Mapurisa noted how they make room for many: for families, big or small, and for those looking to rent.

"In the big houses like mine, I think larger families should live there. In the medium houses, smaller families and/or roommates. And for the tree houses, then one person should live there or someone who's looking for a new idea. Most of our homes have different activities based on neighbourhood bonding."

Krahn noted how the design competition encouraged her students to think about how housing has changed over the years to welcome new people and services. "They viewed photos of Edmonton, and learned a lot about how their communities have changed over time. They were excited to see different types of housing designs and were inspired to be creative."

She added: "Initiatives like these give people a platform to share their ideas. This is vital when advancing a variety of priorities, and as a teacher, I think it is especially vital to give voice to our young people. They are the ones who have innovative ideas that they are not afraid to share, and fresh perspective on how to make our neighbourhoods more community-focused."

Her students agree.

"It was amazing doing this project because almost everyday, you see kids on devices playing Minecraft, or inventing new buildings and stuff. But doing this had us have a real idea of what it's like to bring new life to an old neighbourhood," concludes Mapurisa.

Inspired by Ane and Mandy's story? Want to spark ideas for infill in your neighbourhood? Read our Infill Action Conversation Toolkit for ideas on how to get people in your community together to talk about infill.