How to build a better Canadian neighborhood

Outdoor skating rink

Outdoor skating rink for every neighborhood

Note: this is an update on a blog post I originally wrote on Strongmaker.

Overall, the new neighbourhoods being built in Canada are poorly designed.  There are two factors at play:

  1. We have lots of land, and so space is often abused
  2. Most of our urban design comes from warmer climates

Here are ways to build a better Canadian neighbourhood:

  1. An outdoor skating rink in every neighbourhood: we need to embrace our winter culture, and get out of our homes to enjoy the outdoors. A skating rink is a great way to do that. City planning departments should mandate that every new neighbourhood constructed has an outdoor skating rink built in.
  2. Coloured homes: Canada is white and grey for most of the year.  Why then, do we choose light pastels, greys and off-whites for the exterior of our houses?  We need to take the lead from countries like Norway, and build coloured homes to help us shake off the winter blues.
  3. Walkability: like much of North America, neighbourhoods in Canada have abused the amount of space available to them.  We’ve built sprawling suburbs, where you need to drive to get anywhere.  Every neighbourhood should have a corner store that’s accessible by foot.
  4. Winterized playgrounds: traditional playground equipment just doesn’t cut it up north: surfaces are often slippery, and are difficult to navigate when bundled up.  Furthermore, every community should have a sledding hill within walking distance.
  5. Mini indoor recreation centers: the current trend is to build huge rec-centers on the outskirts of a city or town, forcing folks to drive there.  Why can’t we reduce the scope of these facilities and make them more accessible by making more of them?  A simple indoor playground for moms and smaller children, and some exercise equipment is all most families need.
  6. Warm bus shelters: bus shelters must be designed in California.  They consist of glass walls, and tin roofs, making them useless in the cold.  Let’s add some heaters or insulate these structures and encourage more Canadians to take transit.

The idea here is to reduce the need for driving, make things more accessible to people by moving amenities closer to home, and to take into consideration our long winters.

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  1. Some interesting points.

    On the subject of outdoor arenas: Love the idea but with the additional point that they should be flooded/supported by the city. Getting those rinks up and running takes work/resources and here in Dawson there are empty rinks all over the city because the city stopped getting the first flood in.

    I go back and forth on the walkability point. In nice weather – awesome. In horrible face-freezing weather. I doubt walkability is going to matter much.

    Dawson has a new mini indoor playground and it’s absolutely packed. More of the same would be awesome.

  2. I just got back from the ‘local’ rink, it’s a flooded area at the local park. I could complain that the rink does not have boards, a heated shack, however it is better than nothing. My point is that my kids have already met some kids via pond hockey that they would never have met otherwise. Indoor arenas are great, but not everyone can afford the time and money hockey demands.

    It does boggle my mind why a city like Edmonton seems to make parks so summer friendly when winter is our longest season?

    I Like your point about colored homes, why are drab colors the norm?

  3. Joel:

    Arenas: definitely. All of these things need social investment, both from municipalities and community members.

    Walkability: “Canadian” walkability will look different than “California” walkability. We need to create a definition that works for our climate.

  4. I really wish we had a flooded pond at the local park. Pond hockey was how most of us kids played on the acreage growing up.

  5. And whose going to pay for the thousands of roaming Zambonis needed for your ice rink paradise?