2020 National Urban Design Awards winners announced

The RAIC, the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CLSA) are pleased to announce the 2020 National Urban Design Award winners

Twelve projects across Canada that range from public art installations and parks to a revitalized underpass have been selected for the 2020 National Urban Design Awards.

The awards are part of a two-tier program held in cooperation with Canadian municipalities and will be presented during the RAIC’s Conference on Architecture in Edmonton from June 3-7.

The National Urban Design Awards program judged winners of the 2020 municipal awards and entries submitted at large. The RAIC, the CIP, and the CLSA have presented the recipients in the following categories:

Student Projects

Award of Excellence

Topographic Urban Expansion (Toronto, ON)
Qiwei Song (University of Toronto)
Thesis Advisor: Fadi Masoud

View of Social Node. Photo Courtesy of the RAIC.

This project introduces a pre-emptive approach—a topographic landscape strategy that acts as an open space armature for future development on hillsides of the city. By connecting and planting hydraulic buffers along steep slopes and introducing topographic interventions in connected bands of open space, the project brings social, ecological, economic, and cultural amenities that support and sustain the inevitability of the informal growth pattern.

“A thesis project which exemplifies the interdisciplinary, problem-solving nature of the urban design.” –Jury comment

Certificate of Merit

The Drainage Filter for the Everglades (Toronto, ON)
Qiwei Song, Meikang Li and Chaoyi Cui (University of Toronto)
Instructors: Fadi Masoud and Elise Shelly

View of Wetland Residential. Photo Courtesy of the RAIC.

To tackle the water pollution issue in the Everglades, this proposal is a cost-efficient alternative, and improvement, to existing expensive treatment infrastructures. The treatment areas are planned on current and future available land.

Quite comprehensive in its integration of innovative bio-filtration strategies at a broad and complementary range of spatial scales. The representation of experiential and visual qualities—of what is primarily an eco-infrastructural proposal—is commendable.” –Jury comment

Civic Design

Award of Excellence

Mechanized River Valley Access (Edmonton, AB)

Promenade with public art benches. Photo Credit: Tom Arban

The large elevation difference and steep slopes of the river valley are part of its great beauty, but it makes access difficult for users with mobility challenges. The Mechanized River Valley Access was imagined addressing this connectivity challenge.

A beautifully-conceived ensemble of built structures, open spaces, and public art that successfully connects Edmonton’s downtown to the river valley. The juxtaposition of landscape attributes—in particular, its topographical and visual qualities—and the architectural details and materiality of the downtown milieu are compelling.” –Jury comment

Certificate of Merit

Berczy Park (Toronto, ON)
Claude Cormier et Associés

Form, colour, pattern and texture are designed to integrate with the urban context, expanding the visual reach of the park to the facades surrounding all sides of the park. Photo Credit: Industryous Photography.

The revitalization of this iconic park in downtown Toronto needed to adapt to rapidly evolving community–needs that were never foreseen when the original Berczy Park was constructed 40 years ago. Next-generation needs had to be accommodated by shaping the park into three program-oriented spaces—a green area for play, a garden for dogs, and a plaza for gathering.

The design’s real success is its ‘triangulation’ of multiple user groups, edge conditions, and in recognizing pedestrian desire lines. While the canine fountain is the focal point—or punch line—many underlying design moves make this park much more than the sum of its parts.” –Jury comment

North East Exchange District Public Realm (Winnipeg, MB)
HTFC Planning and Design—in collaboration with WSP Engineering, the City of Winnipeg & CentreVenture Development Corporation

Rest area with trellis that includes built-in lighting, providing a safe place to meet and gather at night during the winter theatre season. Photo Credit: HTFC Planning & Design.

Winnipeg’s North East Exchange District is home to a forward-looking public realm underpinned by the rich warehouse commerce story of the city. The people-first woonerfs, green lanes, plazas, and parklets of the district, buzz with activity in all seasons.

A well-executed design with thoughtful strategic interventions that have a transformative impact on the quality and cohesiveness of Winnipeg’s North East Exchange District. –Jury comment

Urban Fragments

Award of Excellence

18 Shades of Gay (Montréal, QC)
Claude Cormier et Associés

Aerial view of the 18 Shades of Gay project. Photo Credit: Our American Dream

18 Shades of Gay, a 1-kilometre-long ribbon-like installation of 180,000 multicoloured resin balls suspended over Sainte-Catherine Street East—in the Gay Village of Montreal—is part of the transformation of the street into a pedestrian mall during the summer.

18 Shades of Gay more than met the criteria for this award—as a positive contribution to the public realm, exemplifying design excellence and innovation. The “ceiling” of this 1 km outdoor room has been transformed into a full rainbow spectrum signifying gay pride. It defines the Gay Village, adds to 24-hour activity, supports hybrid economic activities, and successfully elevates an otherwise nondescript urban environment.” –Jury comment

Certificate of Merit

The Fourth Street SW Underpass Enhancement (Calgary, AB)
the marc boutin architectural collaborative inc.

View Looking South. Photo Credit: The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative Inc.

The physical state of disrepair of the underpass—limited accessibility, poor lighting levels, and overall deterioration of materials—required immediate attention. In response, the Fourth Street SW Underpass Enhancement Project is founded on the notion of reclaiming this space of removal as a space for conversation.

The understated design has the potential to turn a negative pedestrian experience into something positive. The use of dynamic lighting to reflect the movement of pedestrians is a highlight of the design. The lighting is as much an art feature as a security and amenity enhancement.” –Jury comment 

Community Initiatives

Award of Excellence

The Warming Huts (Winnipeg, MB)
Sputnik Architecture Inc. & The Forks Renewal Corporation

exterior of Hygge House. Photo Credit: The Forks Renewal Corporation.

Taking place in Winnipeg, MB, Warming Huts is an annual project that engages local and international designers, artists, and students each winter to design and create structures that are installed along with public skating and pedestrian trail on the ice of the city’s frozen rivers.

The transformative impact that the Warming Huts program has had in converting Winnipeg’s rivers into an active winter civic space is impressive—even more so given its humble volunteer-based roots. In this regard, the Warming Huts program manages to successfully complement other river-related initiatives and generate a remarkable degree of community engagement since its inception. –Jury comment

Urban Design Plans

Award of Excellence

Plan d’intervention pour le confort et la sécurité des piétons et cyclistes dans le Vieux-Québec (Quebec, QC)
Groupe A / Annexe U

Photo Credit: PHOTO: Groupe A / Annexe U

An ambitious pedestrian and cycling plan in old Quebec City—one of Canada’s most historic and valued urban precincts. Part study and part master plan, this is a well-researched, comprehensive, innovative, and beautifully presented project.

The plan reflects the unique history, topography, climate, and built form of old Quebec City and considers it from a cyclist’s perspective. While certainly not a standardized template, the plan provides an example of how other cities and towns might successfully plan for pedestrians and cyclists.” –Jury comment

Urban Architecture

Award of Excellence 

Casey House (Toronto, ON)
Hariri Pontarini Architects

Courtyard During Daytime. Photo Credit: Doublespace Photography

The renovation and extension to Casey House, a specialized healthcare facility for individuals with HIV/AIDS, meets the needs of patients and healthcare providers in a setting designed to evoke the experience and comforts of home.

Urban designers often face the challenge of adding to heritage buildings. This project enhances the existing building and preserves its specific qualities, while choreographing spaces around a new landscaped central garden court. It respects a long tradition of public buildings as monumental, ‘foreground’ structures.” –Jury comment

Certificate of Merit

The Springdale Library and Komagata Maru Park (Brampton, ON)
RDH Architects (RDHA)


The Springdale Library and Komagata Maru Park aspire to create an inclusive gathering place, a progressive architectural expression in the suburbs, and a point of pride for the city.

This project is recognized as an innovative approach to urban design in an otherwise undistinguished suburban area. Elegantly—and deceptively simple—the design recognizes both pedestrians and passing motorists and responds to its surrounding context.” –Jury comment

Special Jury Awards

Sustainable Development Award

Corridor de biodiversité, Arrondissement de Saint-Laurent, Montréal (Montréal, QC)
civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture and Biodiversité conseil

Cavendish Boulevard, Perspective. Photo Credit: civiliti, LAND Italia, Table architecture, Biodiversité Conseil

Giant powerlines, long identified with monotonous sterile landscapes, will soon hover above flowering meadows, frequented by birds, pollinating insects, small animals, and Montrealers. It is part of a major ecological project, which will see the implementation of a Biodiversity Corridor, from the junction of Cavendish Boulevard and Highway 40, right up to the end of Thimens Boulevard, in the Borough of Saint-Laurent.

The promise of urban design is sustainable development—creating economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits. While this project focuses on the environment, it reflects all “Seven C’s” of urban design: context, character, choice, connections, creativity, custodianship, and collaboration.” –Jury comment

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