October 5, 2017
Calgary is an enterprising city. Given the right ingredients, enough talent and a committed community, amazing things can happen – or in the Calgary Herald’s words: “Alley Envy.” That is how The Backyard unfolded. Calgary’s first official laneway activation project was born out of a desire to give back to the businesses on 17th avenue that were affected by ongoing street upgrades. What flourished was an amazing partnership, and a sense of community and camaraderie for all those who participated.
Kasian’s Lifescape team was called into action to develop a concept for a stretch of laneway between 4th and 5th street SW. This was to be a pilot for future interventions along ‘the laneway mile’, marking the first of ten blocks of uninterrupted laneway. Working with our partners, The City and all the businesses, a detailed strategy was developed in tandem with a plan for programming and events to occur over two weekends in September.
The Backyard was born. It was configured as a series of flexible spaces for different activities to occur. Places to hang out, listen to live music, eat, watch movies, do art, yoga – a place for Calgarians. All of the components such as planters, bars and benches were designed to be modular so they could be assembled/disassembled quickly and by volunteers. This also provided flexibility for reinterpretation onsite, as well new configurations for future laneway interventions. Recycled astroturf was laid down in parking areas, walls and pavement were painted and adorned with artwork and decals, and temporary lighting was erected. All this in the space of a day for assembly, then takedown.
Our call for volunteers was completely overwhelming and we were oversubscribed with people who wanted to engage and help out on the project. Our crew were assigned shifts and worked diligently alongside our partners and members of the community to bring the lane to life. Over the course of two weekends we saw a variety of people and personalities while a great community atmosphere developed. In true Calgary fashion, we experienced four seasons in the span of a week, but our volunteers were terrific – smiling on through everything the weather chose to throw at them.
A huge thank you goes to all our supporters and volunteers. We truly could not have put this together without you. We also want to thank our partners who made this journey fun and collaborative. We’re looking forward to The Backyard version 2.0 – see you all there!
The Kasian Team
Mitchell & Julian
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