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Friday, 02 September 2016 17:29

Art camp participants dream up new architecture and landscaping for downtown Sarnia

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Anusha Sheikh, 13, of Sarnia, shows off her design for a downtown park modeled after the work of Aboriginal artist Norval Morrisseau. More than a dozen local young people participated this week in an Imagining My Sustainable City workshop, culminating in a presentation of their re­imagined downtown Sarnia to community leaders and families at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery Thursday.

A rooftop greenhouse, shipping container condos and a horn­shaped music studio for better acoustics.

These are just a few of the novel ideas a group of Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery summer camp participants came up with this wee to improve downtown Sarnia.

But perhaps their greatest idea ­­ one that drew the praise of community leaders at a presentation Thursday ­­ wasn't so far­reaching.

A section of the Bayside Centre building should come down in order to open up Lochiel Street up back to the public, the aspiring young architects say.

The space could be filled with a string of new condos and a community parkette for downtown dwellers.

"Right now there's really not a lot of housing for people here, so by building it, it brings people back downtown and into the community," said Vivian Kristjansson, a 16­year­old Bright's Grove student who helped come up with the new downtown design.

More than a dozen young people came together to build a model of a spruced­up downtown core as part of the Imagining My Sustainable City workshop led by No. 9 Contemporary Art & The Environment. The Toronto­based non­profit arts organization offers educational workshops in an effort to get young people thinking about the roles art and design can play in addressing environmental issues.

More than 44 Toronto wards have hosted the Imaging My Sustainable City workshop, but this week's visit was the first one to Sarnia ­ and it couldn't come have come at a better time with Bayside Centre now a site for redevelopment, organizers learned upon arrival.

"Sometimes you can see cities as patients," said Andrew Davies, executive director of No. 9 Contemporary Art & The Environment. "Architects can serve as doctors and treat cities like patients, and in this city, it seems like opening up the mall building may be the treatment."

With sketchbooks in hand, workshop participants spent part of this week touring and dreaming up ideas for Sarnia's downtown core. They then used the nine pillars of sustainable cities to come up with new architecture and landscaping for the downtown, building a model of their design out of wood, cardboard and paper.

For Kristjansson, the exercise made her realize new buildings aren't the be­all and end­all in urban design.

"They really helped me realize that a garden can make such a difference," said Kristjansson, who's now thinking of a career in urban planning.

On Thursday, the young urban planners in training had a chance to showcase their design to political leaders and municipal planners at a special presentation held at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery. After the formal presentation, workshop participants showed off the design up close to their families.

Several spots in this week's workshop were made available to young newcomers to the community through the Sarnia­Lambton Loca Immigration Partnership (LIP).

Research has shown community engagement helps newcomers both academically and socially, said Aruba Mahmud, of Sarnia­ Lambton LIP.

"Some of the parents have said their children have built up confidence over the few days because of having to do presentations," she said.

Lambton County Warden Bev MacDougall described this week's exercise as a "beacon of hope" for the future of downtown Sarnia. "It's amazing because bright minds coming together to feed off each other's equally bright ideas is how we develop cities."

Original Article: http://www.theobserver.ca/2016/08/25/art-camp-participants-dream-up-new-architecture-and-landscaping-for-downtown-sarnia