During a February coffee meeting with a business associate, Aziz Bootwala, vice-president of business development at Kasian Architecture, mulled over the idea of holding a design competition to commemorate Canada's 150th anniversary.
"As we were getting ready to celebrate Canada 150, it occurred to me, 'What will Edmonton have on July 2?'" said Bootwala.
The concept excited his counterpart, Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, director of business development at EllisDon, and together they came up with the idea behind the Edmonton Project — a city-wide brainstorm session that would result in a permanent installation somewhere in the city.
Rather than limit submissions through the strict parametres and eligibility criteria of a conventional design competition, the pair thought why not solicit ideas from the community and see what they come up with?
"In the normal course of design competitions and the construction and design world, it's very closed," said Hansen-Carlson. "You have to be an architect, or fit into this box to even submit."
After fleshing out the original concept to become more about Edmonton in general and less about the country's sesquicentennial, Bootwala and Hansen-Carlson reached out to friends in the marketing and finance industries to help get the project off the ground. Thus was born the Edmonton Project, which launched Aug. 25 and submissions are being accepted until Oct. 20.
Hansen-Carlson says while ideas must result in something of permanence in the built environment, the committee wants to see Edmontonians push past plazas, statues and monuments to come up with something truly unique that will contribute to the city's sense of place. He points to the Light the Bridge initiative, started by ATB's president and CEO Dave Mowat and resulting in the installation of 60,000 LED lights being strung from the High Level Bridge, as the perfect example of a community initiative that has transformed the way we think about Edmonton.
Once submissions are closed, a panel of five influential community members will sift through the ideas to select the best 10. These same individuals will then select the winning idea during a live-pitch event in January.
The shortlisted ideas will receive technical design and engineering support from industry experts, through a partnership with the Edmonton Construction Association, before they are considered by the panel.
An idea itself only seven months old, the Edmonton Project is a partnership between five organizations: Kasian and EllisDon will lend technical expertise to the submissions; Zag Creative is responsible for branding and marketing; BDO is providing governance, financial and budgeting expertise; and ATB is assisting with community outreach and fundraising.
To reflect the diversity of the community and the range of ideas the Edmonton Project will generate, zag creative, led by Alyson Hodson, has created a unique brand for the not-for-profit. The marketing firm designed three variations of each letter in the city's name to create 366 versions of the logo. Each unique website visit should generate a completely different logo, said Hodson.
John Windwick, vice-president of community initiatives at ATB, hopes that the project will incite a sense of civic pride.
This certainly was the case for Brian Heerensperger, senior manager at BDO. A Calgary native, Heerensperger has called Edmonton home for the past decade. He said the project reminds him of why he loves Edmonton so much.
"Edmonton's a place where this can happen. I'm not sure that every city in Canada would say the same thing," he said.
As a partner organization, Make Something Edmonton will engage its network of 10,000 community builders by sharing the stories of the Edmonton Project as it unfolds over the next few months.
For more information on the Edmonton Project, or to submit an idea click here. For an example of a submission, check out this CBC Radio Active interview with Alyson Hodson (skip to the seven minute mark.)