Monday, May 11, 2015

Tactical Suburbanism: the Bridge To Somewhere Pop-Up Playground project

[27 May 2015 update: we're grateful to accept a Project Accelerator Grant from Make Something Edmonton for this project! However, it turns out the land at The Bridge To Nowhere is owned by the Province of Alberta, and we cannot get a permit for land use in time for #DIYCity - so we are switching our attention to a different site on City of Edmonton parkland. If there is a DIYCity2016, we will attempt to get permits for the Bridge To Nowhere site and carry out the original idea then. Our new proposed site is at Magrath Park and Rabbit Hill Natural Area - please read our latest blog post for more details.]

We want to create a pop-up adventure playground and transitory community-created art installation to animate The Bridge To Nowhere for #DIYCity Day. (Here's our Make Something Edmonton project page.) Won't you help us use the ideas of tactical urbanism to create a family-friendly suburban event? 
This is the view of the underpass from the top of the hill on the north side of Anthony Henday Drive. The pedestrian underpass access is on the east bank of Whitemud Creek, and it's suspended about 7 feet above the creek. 
Who: We're an as-yet-unnamed collective of artists looking for collaborators and volunteers to make this thing happen. (If that's you, please leave a comment below and I will get in touch!) We are passionate about creating a series of pop-up play places in both urban and suburban neighborhoods that activate underused or lost public spaces and create feelings of community connectedness. We see Bridge To Somewhere as the first installation in a series.
What: Bridge To Somewhere Pop-Up Playground will be a pop-up adventure playground, transitory community-created art installation (chalk and wheatpaste), and solar-lit textile art installation under The Bridge To Nowhere. It will be paired with a temporary slide down the grassy steep path on the south side of the highway, and a mix of temporary and permanent wayfinding and interpretative signs along the paths that help people find the spot while informing them about the ravine's cultural and natural history.

When: June 21st, 10am to 6pm
As you can see once you get closer to the underpass, there are broad grassy areas used as maintenance vehicle access roads along both sides of the creek that could work well as pop-up play spaces.
The view back through the underpass from the south side.
The south-eastern end of the pedestrian underpass bridge is rockier.

This steep grassy hill on the south side of the bridge is well-suited to a temporary slide installation.
Where: The Bridge To Nowhere is a pedestrian underpass on Whitemud Creek Ravine under Anthony Henday Drive that is not yet connected to paved multiuse or pedestrian trails. The Whitemud Creek Ravine overpass on Anthony Henday Drive is located at 53.428738, -113.563197 on Google Maps (you can kind of see it in Streetview). Its' design and construction is described at and the adjacent ecologically-sensitive parkland is described at
Currently this is a completely lost space, connected only to dirt paths and used by street artists and teen taggers, City employees painting out the work of said taggers (last done in approximately July 2013), and the occasional dog walker. The infrequency with which graffiti is painted out has effectively made this one of Edmonton's secret free walls, so we'll be riffing on that with kid-friendly impermanent street art techniques.
Existing tags have been created using spray paint or adapted fire extinguishers.

Access will be via paved multiuse paths and dirt paths, and we will encourage those who need parking to use the lot at the strip mall at the corner of Rabbit Hill Road and Mullen Way, then follow the wayfinding markers along the paths from the suburban residential neighborhood through parkland to the highway underpass.
This gravel path, and the section that follows that has retained its battered asphalt, was once part of Rabbit Hill Road before the streets were reconfigured to accommodate the building of Anthony Henday Drive and the residential neighborhood.
The location is on the boundary of the former Papaschase Reserve, near a nature sanctuary and a former coal mine, so we plan to use wayfinding, art, and playhouse creation to help foster connection with the natural and material history of the place. We hope to reclaim the place's historical importance and foster social investment in the ravine with the pedestrian underpass as a focal point.
Why: By creating a common focus (creative play) in an unusual setting, barriers between community members can be dissolved in a low-stakes but intentional way, and neighborhood identity can be discovered. In newly built suburban neighborhoods, this process can be especially helpful in giving community members a sense of belonging and engagement that we hope will encourage civic identity and involvement.

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