Tristan van Leur 2015 wins 2015 Michael Evamy Scholarship

In spring 2014, a YouTube video entitled Look Up went viral. By 2015, it had more than 49 million views. The subject of the video? Looking up from our mobile devices and engaging with the physical world around us. It’s a challenge designers face every day.

2015 Michael Evamy Scholarship recipient, Tristan van Leur, is taking a different approach to this challenge. Instead of trying to convince people to put their devices away, his thesis entitled Spacebook will examine ways to empower public spaces through mobile devices.

“It’s a fascinating approach to a significant problem for designers,” said DIALOG principal Donna Clare. “When it comes to public spaces, one of the most important measures of success is if people use the space. With technology so engrained in our lives, the public realm is constantly competing to engage its occupants.”

Van Leur’s research will focus on integrating technology in Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) but, in theory, the culmination of his research should be applicable to all public spaces. His research will begin with a site analysis of the largest POPS network in North America (New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Seattle), followed by social network analysis. By experimenting with a variety of techniques such as heating, cooling, and sound; Van Leur plans to explore ways in which heightening the senses can encourage spontaneous conversation and interaction. Throughout the process van Leur will be conducting built design experiments.

The Michael Evamy Scholarship Selection Committee noted van Leur’s submission was worthy of investing and felt it echoed DIALOG’s commitment to meaningfully improve the well-being of communities.

“How do we engage people who are otherwise not engaged?” asked DIALOG principal Stephen Boyd. “It’s an important consideration for the future of architecture.”

Van Leur will be graduating from the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture in April 2015. His research is expected to be complete by summer 2016.