Corvus Design Blog

December 10, 2010

How does your city rank for being “Winter Aware”?

 This post isn’t directly about play… but it’s definitely relevant. How does your city not only plan for and accommodate winter, how does it celebrate it? I spent some time in Quebec City in February a few years ago and had the pleasure of experiencing one of the oldest “European” cities in North America when they’d been hit with a good amount of snow.

Quebec City has one amazing thing going for it (at least the old part of it)… it wasn’t designed for cars. And, it’s got history and layer upon layer of building and re-building. It’s the kind of place we’re trying to get back to with mixed-use and all of the “new” planning models we’re embracing.

So, the first key to being a great winter/northern city is to embrace planning that is people-centered, rather than car-centered. Quebec City is about the experience at the street level.

Variety in facades, and a well-scaled street space.

 Regardless of the season, there’s a lot to see and experience here… some works in the winter, and some doesn’t. But… not everything needs to be all season?

Snow gives new context to everything.
If you provide a reason, and the people… businesses will embrace it too!
And people love it.

So… part of the secret is designing for all seasons, but leaving room to embrace the special aspects of the season you’re in. Seasonal decoration and celebration…

A fantastic urban winter composition.

Like the post we did for Winnipeg (Winnipeg – Getting it Right for Winter), another important component is programming and providing people a reason to get outside. We can’t all just hop on our skis to get out into the woods… so these urban opportunities provide an important service.

Skating right in the thick of history (and good lighting).

 There are also the fun that can be unique to winter:

Snow and ice… ultimate temporal artist’s media?
Unexpected? Or designed for?
Make your own mark to share.
(we checked… the bicyclist isn’t frozen in here too)
A very progressive city with its parking.

The things that add to all seasons in different ways.

No excuses for paying for parking.

If we look, we’ll also see the reality of play in the winter. From our recent request for people’s comments on their winter play memories (Memories of Winter Play), most play in the winter is specific to the season.

How much use do swings get?
Not much interpretive content in the winter.

 Access is also critical. It’s great to see pathways and pedestrian routes included within snow clearing strategies.

Pedestrians actually have a priority for snow sometimes!
Clearing sidewalks.
Clearing roads (with sideblade attachment)
Winter takes all kinds of equipment.

If you do everything right (or mostly right), people will use winter. On side streets, pedestrians are just as important in the road as cars. I didn’t get a photo, but on one street, a number of cars were waiting (very politely) as a man in a wheelchair made his way down the street. Everyone has the right to get around!