Chocolate Cake Helps Montreal Residents Explore The Future Of Their Neighborhood.

Posted on November 21st, 2011 at 5:00 am by in News, Our Work

Chocolate Cake Helps Montreal Residents Explore The Future Of Their Neighborhood.

Montreal’s Vendome neighborhood has a brand new, massive hospital in its very near future that will have a huge impact on the fabric of the neighborhood and yet most people don’t even know it’s coming. What happens when you gather commuters, passersby, local kids, politicians, news media, college students and cheerleaders (!) to build a 7 foot long chocolate cake master plan of the neighborhood and the impending development?

Public Workshop was asked by the great folks from CURA: Making Mega-Projects Work for Communities (a project of McGill University’s School of Urban Planning) to lead one of our chocolate cake master planning workshops (previous example) at the neighborhood’s subway station today to start generating conversation, awareness and questions around the impending project. CURA is working with Concertation Interquartier (CIQ), an inter-neighbourhood coalition of community groups working with the mega-hospital to better integrate the hospital into the surrounding neighborhood.

Why cake? Have a look at this interview, courtesy of OpenFile with Public Workshop’s Alex Gilliam to learn more:

Smartly stationed in between a number of bus stops and the Vendome Metro station, the construction of the neighborhood in chocolate cake grabbed the attention of harried commuters, hesitant passersby and hungry teenagers like few other things can. In fact, one of the big successes of the cake building workshop was the great cross-section of the population that we engaged on Friday morning. Young, old, powerful, homeless, families, individuals, local, and immigrant helping explore the design of the future of the neighborhood…… often does that happen at your typical community planning meeting?

A few moments in the early morning commuter rush clearly stood out-

There was the Italian owner of a nearby coffee shop owner who stopped by to make sure his business could be easily seen on the model; the well-appointed hospital administrator in her blue suit with her hands covered in chocolate cake and icing, building away; the council member using the finished chocolate cake model to emphatically explain to reporters from the CBC the need for improved bike lane infrastructure in the neighborhood; chocolate-cake-emboldened urban planning students really connecting with passersby and participants ; the gaggles of teenagers getting off at the nearby bus stop and coming over for a closer look; and lets not forget the McGill University cheerleaders who created a special ‘Vendome would be great if…….’ cheer, on the spot.

And of course there were also the really thoughtful ideas for neighborhood future neighborhood improvements that we gathered through our ‘Vendome would be great if…..’. Although they by no means represent a detailed sampling of the neighborhood’s wishes, they do start to identify some strong trends that CURA and CIQ can use to initiate meaningful conversations between the community and the hospital about the future of the neighborhood.

Incredible thanks to Jason Prince, Molly Johnson, McGill Urban Planning students and others from CURA and CIQ for inviting Public Workshop to lead the event and doing a fantastic job of making the entire workshop a great success.

Curious what they had to say about the neighborhood and chocolate cake?

The event was well-attended by the news media. Have a look at the links below:

The initial Canadian Broadcasting Corporation story:

A story by OpenFile with a very good 3 minute video:

More from the CBC:

CBC TV: Some more video…


Want to see more pictures from the event?