Citizen city-builders plan one day takeover of Edmonton's forgotten corners

A machine blowing bubbles onto a downtown streetscape.

A public workshop on building balcony gardens. A barbecue in a community park.

The events in Edmonton last year were sometimes whimsical, sometimes practical, and sometimes just a reason for people to gather and share a meal. All were part of the "100in1Day" movement — a day for citizen city-builders around the world to turn "spaces into places."

"It's something to tweak the urban environment and make it a little different, a little more surprising, in one day all over the city," said Chris Gusen, program manager for Make Something Edmonton.

The city-sponsored organization, along with the CITYlab group, launched Edmonton's first 100in1Day event last year. Slightly more than 100 projects took over different pockets of the city.

Among them was Wesley Andreas' plan to beautify the back alleys around Alberta Avenue. He had already painted a mural on his garage and wanted to bring more neighbours together to do the same.

The result was 11 more colourful garages and alley-spaces in the community. It was a painting project that took one day, but lasted much longer.

"I just thought it was an underutilized space in the neighbourhood and I thought we should do something with it," said Andreas.

This year, he plans to install 100 red Muskoka chairs in small parks and green spaces around Alberta Avenue. The idea is to spark more neighbourhood conversations.

The 100in1Day event started in Bogota, Columbia, in 2012, but has since spread around the world. Other Canadian cities, such as Montreal and Toronto, also take part.

Gusen said people sometimes question the long-term impacts of the event, which focuses on one-day projects that are sometimes as simple as a community barbecue.

"I think there's a continuum in city-building, and you have to start somewhere," he told CBC's Edmonton AM on Monday. "You have to put ideas out there and prototype them.

"Any project that you can do to highlight an underutilized space brings it into the community conversation, and suddenly we can think a little differently about our city. And that can lead to change."

This year's 100in1Day is slated for June 3 but participants are asked to add their projects to the online list by May 26.