Homegrown Design Challenge winners unveiled: DIY bee hotels and an alleyway forest for Toronto

Toronto may soon be home to a chain of DIY backyard bee hotels and a natural forest in a downtown alleyway. Those were the winning designs selected in the first Homegrown Design Challenge, launched this spring by Workshop Architecture and the David Suzuki Foundation.

The Homegrown Design Challenge invited eight prominent architects and landscape architects — and members of the public in an open call — to submit ideas for low-cost, easy-to-implement green design solutions for yards, alleys, commercial properties and schoolyards.

“We were looking for designs that provide inspiration for homeowners and property managers to green their spaces,” said organizer Helena Grdadolnik from Workshop Architecture. “We were delighted with the eclectic mix of innovative design ideas we received.”

The Homegrown Design Challenge jurors selected two winning submissions. “DIY Backyard Bee Hotels” by Sustainable.TO Architecture + Building and “Carolinian Way,” a naturalized forested alley by landscape designer Tawab Hlimi, shared the $500 in prizes. Juror Faisal Moola from the David Suzuki Foundation said, “The DIY Backyard Bee Hotels and the Carolinian Way are excellent demonstrations of how to bring nature to the city.”

Design ideas included proposals to adapt laneways and parking lots to more effectively absorb and filter stormwater; transform schoolyards to create outdoor learning environments that are more natural and ecologically diverse; foster greater diversity in front yards to support pollinators like bees and butterflies; and create raised structures that playfully connect residents with lost rivers beneath the city.

The two winning designs and eight invited submissions were shown for the first time at an outdoor event at Fort York and are currently on exhibition at Urbanspace Gallery from July 10 to August 10, 2014. Other projects on display are: “TIC TAC FLO” by archiTEXT; “Local Monsters” by Brown and Storey Architects; “rePlay” by Elise Shelley Landscape Architect; “The People’s Hive” by LGA Architectural Partners; “Bio-Flume” by North Design Office; “Incisions and Incubators” by Shift Landscape & Urbanism; “Public Laneway Puncture” Victoria Taylor Landscape Architect; and “Pedestrian Filter” by Workshop Architecture.

Jurors for the competition were: Victoria Taylor, Landscape Architect, Victoria Taylor Landscape Architect; Peter North, Landscape Architect, North Design Office; Stuart McPherson, Project Manager, Urban Ecology, Evergreen Brick Works; Alex Bozikovic, Architecture Critic, Globe and Mail; Faisal Moola, Director General, Ontario and the North, David Suzuki Foundation; and Helena Grdadolnik, Associate Director, Workshop Architecture.

“Through the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project, we are aiming to green the city, one clever intervention at a time,” Moola said. “We hope these design ideas will inspire homeowners and property managers to reimagine what’s possible for their balconies, yards and neighbourhoods.”

In the meantime, the David Suzuki Foundation is working on pursuing permissions and funding to realize a few of the ideas you see in this exhibition as demonstration projects within the Homegrown National Park.

For more information, please visit http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2014/07/homegrown-design-challenge/