Symbiotic Regions

Date: 2016-2017
Category: Educational-course, academic
Form: Major project, publication, exhibition, charrette

Symbiotic Regions


Many people who live in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) work in Toronto, but live in one of the many growing cities in the region. On a daily basis, they are challenged with organizing their lives under varying regional and municipal systems that are often competing, inefficient and generally unconnected.

It is clear that there are synergies and connections between the different cities of the GGH that are happening irrespective of regional and municipal planning policies. These symbiotic relationships are not formally coordinated and are steered by the needs of people. They are extremely important to understanding the future development of the region.

During 2016-17, the IwB will explore the symbiosis that is occurring within the GGH. The key to our project is looking at the human experience of living across the region, and comparing it to the municipal frameworks that are currently operational.

Project Goals:

The Symbiotic Regions project seeks to uncover new value in the GGH, by demonstrating how cities can cooperate at a regional scale to better deliver services, attract investment and create more resilient social and physical infrastructure for living regionally.



Rethinking how we live in the Greater Golden
Horseshoe Region

People are already breaking barriers and carving out regional connections for themselves. How can local organizations act as catalysts for regional development?

Project Context & Year Highlights

Symbiotic Regions is the fourth year of a five-year research trajectory set by the IwB to explore Regional Ecologies, an approach that emphasizes the study of the regional scale of cities and their surrounding areas.

The Regional Ecologies Project is broken down into five different city-region types: gateway cities, divided places, interstitial zones, symbiotic regions and continuous corridors. Importantly, these categories are not exclusive; they are research themes from which the Institute is building a greater understanding of Regional Ecologies.

In 2013-14, the IwB worked with the theme of Gateway Cities, looking at three case study cities that serve as gateways to their respective regions–Toronto, New York City, and Chicago. The 2014-15, Connecting Divided Places project, investigated the social, economic, environmental, and cultural divisions in Chicago, Eastpointe (Detroit), and Toronto. In 2015-16, the IwB shifted gears and looked at a small region in southwestern Ireland called County Kerry. Defining County Kerry as an ‘Interstitial Zone’, a place ‘in-between’ that has potential to be a future area of influence and vitality, the IwB students looked at ways to promote sustainable economic development in the region.

For the 2016-17 Symbiotic Regions project, the IwB will connect with partners located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region, looking at regional organization and government. 

See the Year Highlights or contact us to find out more!

Orientation & Project Partner Meeting – September 2016

During the first week of classes, the IwB students will participate in an orientation session during which they will meet the major project partner(s). Typically, the session is held at the IwB studio, where students and the project partner have the chance to share ideas about the aims of the project.

IwB Fall Charrette – October 2016

In October 2016, IwB students, staff, and faculty will conduct their first charrette of the year addressing themes they themselves identify through their research. The charrette will provide students with research opportunities such as interviews, workshops, observation, and other fieldwork experience. Typically students from other academic institutions are invited to participate in the fall charrette.

TO DO Offsite Festival – January 2017

The Toronto Design Offsite Festival (TO DO) showcases independent design in Toronto and runs during Toronto’s Design Week. The festival takes place throughout Toronto’s different art and design venues, as well as at the sites of individual organizations.

Since 2013, the IwB students, faculty and staff have participated in the TO DO Festival, principally hosting exhibitions at the School of Design Gallery space, at 230 Richmond Street East. In February 2017, the IwB students will propose and execute a special exhibition about their project for TO DO 2017.

To find out more about past IwB TO DO exhibits see the TO DO Festival page.

Toronto International Charrette – February 2017

The Toronto International Charrette is an annual IwB event that brings together 200 plus students, faculty and industry experts from organizations around the world. The goals of this charrette will be for participants to design detailed project proposals that respond to the major themes of the Symbiotic Regions project.

Past IwB Toronto International Charrettes include the Balancing Continuity & Change Charrette and the Our City within a Park Charrette.

Work Placement – April 2017

For three weeks in April 2017, the IwB students will participate in individualized work placements. Students will work with organizations and companies that reflect their interests and strengths as identified during the first semester.

The IwB has a wide network of past project partners with whom students can seek work placement, but they are also encouraged to branch out and work with organizations outside the IwB network.

Year End Show (YES) Process Exhibit – April 2017

In April 2017, the students will plan and execute parts of their research findings as a process exhibit during the GBC School of Design Year End Show (YES). The exhibition will give students the opportunity to showcase their findings with a large audience including other GBC students and their families as well as industry experts.

Dean's Charrettes – May 2017

The Dean’s Charrettes are a spring semester academic course open to students across the Centre for Arts, Design and Information Technology (CADIT), completed within a two-week period.

The focus and themes of the 2017 Dean’s Charrettes will be developed from the IDS major project as well as the Special Projects conducted by CADIT during the 2016-17 academic year.

For the Dean’s Charrettes, the IwB students will work with faculty and students from different George Brown College programs, they will also have the opportunity to take on leadership roles and practice interdisciplinary collaboration, while working on industry projects in an intensive studio environment.

Final Exhibit & Presentation – May/June 2017

The IDS students will produce a detailed plan for the project partner that will build on and incorporate the work of the year, including charrette results, Module projects and Major Project course outcomes. The IwB students will present a detailed proposal to the project partner representatives.

Image Credits:
IwB staff and faculty 2016-17


Image Credits:
Sam Bullis

Project Tags:
Symbiotic Regions, Toronto, Greater Golden Horseshoe, GGH, Greater Toronto Area, GTA, connection, synergy, municipal planning, regional development