Ottawa, Ontario’s Vanier neighborhood, a francophone section east of the city’s downtown, is about as close to seamy as you’re likely to get in Canada, says professor Roger Connah, who led a one-time, year-long studio investigating the city’s slow but steady gentrification: “I wanted to get my students to engage in a community, which we often don’t do at my school.”

“I was looking for anyone who engaged outside of the confines of the school and went and talked to people. This studio did that, which I thought was commendable and interesting.” —Juror Jeanne Gang

Though not as big as Toronto or Montreal, Ottawa is developing rapidly, with a thicket of downtown high-rises popping up that Connah considers poorly designed. Before the wave hits Vanier, he wanted his students to imagine a better path toward denser residential development in the area. There’s no denying the need for more housing, Connah says, but he wanted his students to understand that there is more than one way to accommodate growing populations. “We’re building environments that will embarrass us in 20 years,” he says.

The students, all seniors in the school’s B.Arch. program, began with a focus on housing, but from there Connah left the brief open-ended as they moved into discussions about how their projects would affect their surroundings in and around Vanier. The students presented their proposals to community groups, and incorporated feedback from those presentations. The studio concluded with an exhibition, along with a book that the students produced. “I wanted to give them training in the logistics of how to do all these aspects of practice at the same time,” Connah says.

Student Work

Urban Ecologies by Audrey Caron, Steph Agar, Dawn Ling, and Mia Giommi

Gossiping Towers by Tyson Moll and Shawn Duke

Sigma Embedded Housing by Eisa Hayashi, Cristina Hoang, Anna Leung, Sabrina Shen, and Oliver Tang

Mainstreets by Neha Bhargava, Balquis Attef, Nahid Ahmadi, and Kripa Gyawali

Project Credits
Course: Ottawa: You’re So Vanier
School: Carleton University, Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism
Level: B.Arch. (year four)
Duration: Academic year 2015–16
Project Site: Ottawa, Ontario
Instructor: Roger Connah (professor)
Students: Steph Agar, Nahid Ahmadi, Balquis Attef, Neha Bhargava, Audrey Caron, Shawn Duke, Mia Giommi, Kripa Gyawali, Tori Hamatani, Michelle Harper, Eisa Hayashi, Cristina Hoang, Anna Leung, Dawn Ling, Tyson Moll, Heeva Salemi, Sabrina Shen, Jason Surkan, Oliver Tang (submitted projects)
Collaborators: Geoff Heinzman (ModBox), Jamie Kwong, Sophie Lamothe, David Renfroe
Reviewers: Janak Alford, Paul Holmqvist, J-F Jacques, David McRobie, Adrian Ross, Samantha Schneider, Claudio Sgarbi, Robert Van Lin

Read about the other 2016 Studio Prize winners.