City on the Rise Charrette

Date: April 2014
Category: Special Project
Form: Charrette

City on the Rise Charrette


In April 2014, L’Institut Idée, in partnership with the Spoke Club, conducted several events looking at how Toronto can become one of the world’s great cities. One of these events included a special half-day gathering of Toronto’s leaders, from ranging sectors. The session was led by L’Institut Idée and held at the Spoke Club. It produced a map that identified five key themes towards the goal of: “Toronto is one of the world’s great cities” (see the map on the L’Institut Idée website).

Following this event, L’Institut Idée approached the IwB to continue the Spoke Club mapping session using the IwB’s charrette method. Towards this goal, the City on the Rise Charrette took place on Friday, June 20, 2014. The charrette aimed to expand on the ideas proposed during the April 2014 session as well as to produce design proposals for the five key themes identified at the mapping session.

Project Goals:

To develop tangible ideas and strategies that will enable Toronto to reach its potential as one of the world’s greatest cities.


Toronto has what it take. We just need to step outside the lines and connect the dots.

Charrette team work session
Promotional poster for team three's Yes, Let's! proposal
Final presentations at the City on the Rise Charrette

City on the Rise Charrette:

The City of Toronto is a ‘global city,’ but there are many opportunities for improving Toronto’s global standing as an attractive and economically competitive city.

The L’Institut Idée and Spoke Club mapping session from April 2014 produced five themes––encouraging city openness, embracing organic evolution, fostering originality, nurturing citizens, and attracting talent––as well as the meta-statement “Toronto is one of the world’s greatest cities.” Charrette participants were asked to establish a vision of how these themes could be achieved and could support the meta-goal of making Toronto one of the world’s greatest cities.

The goals of the charrette were to move beyond city-level marketing and think of new and innovative programs, built infrastructure, and digital platforms to encourage ‘greatness’ in Toronto and to do it across an array of sectors, including: governance and public policy, built infrastructure, arts and culture, transportation, mobility and connectivity, as well as finance and investment.

Project Outcome:

The charrette produced five different proposals. All of the teams looked at precedent cases and then developed a brand for their campaign, core programming, and strategies to implement it. In just one day, the teams developed ready ideas to improve the City of Toronto and work towards supporting its greatness.

To learn more about this charrette, view the teams’ design proposals below and or read see the complete process on the L’Institut Idée website.

Summary of Charrette Proposals:

Team 1 – ReStart City

The team was assigned the theme of encouraging city openness. Starting with the proposition that greatness requires a welcoming culture. Team one was asked: how can we establish a culture of openness, transparency, and inclusivity to embrace people from all backgrounds and cultivate new ideas in Toronto?

Looking generally at how Toronto can become a more open place, the team began with a simple premise: the enemy of openness is entitled individualism.

The team proposed “ReStart City” a strategy for stimulating the energy of the collective through unimpeded and encouraged interaction in the municipality’s urban social groups. The proposal focused on built infrastructure that creates modular structures that can be used for planned and spontaneous social gatherings.

Find out more about “ReStart City” here.

Team 2 – What if Toronto

The team was assigned the theme of embracing organic evolution. The team was asked to start with the proposition never be satisfied with the status quo and the idea that all cities develop organically over time and that accepting and encouraging change to foster innovation is key to the future success of the city. Team two was asked: how can we capitalize on Toronto’s dynamism to ensure ongoing improvement? And how can we avoid a stagnant approach to city building?

The team proposed “What if Toronto” a digital and physical playground that takes ideas from the public and transforms them into reality. The proposal surrounds physical/ infrastructural ‘zones of experimentation’ in underused spaces that provide the infrastructure to bring the public’s ideas to life, turning residents into city thinkers and doers. The proposal provokes the audience to think beyond the current form of civic engagement, allowing the city to become a ‘playground of ideas’ where each residents’ opinions have the opportunity to be shared and showcased to facilitate discussion.

Find out more about “What if Toronto” here.

Team 3 – Yes, Let’s!

The team was assigned the theme of fostering originality. The team was asked to start with the proposition that greatness cannot be copied and a recognition that Toronto has a unique culture that is its own, but that it still lacks the brand essence of great cities such as New York, London and Tokyo. Team three was asked: how can we encourage and foster originality in Toronto?

The focus of team 3 became fostering a culture of experimentation and action through a system that educates citizens about Toronto’s history of originality and empowers them to continue to influence change. “Yes, Let’s!” overhauls the city’s governance structure to reward ideas and reshape the business climate with rewards for innovative thinking.

The proposal aims to build awareness and pride in Toronto’s history and create optimal conditions for original thinking and action.

Find out more about “Yes, let’s!” here.

Team 4 – TO.O

The team was assigned the theme of nurturing citizens. The team was asked to start with the proposition that a great city has a heart and a recognition that the inhabitants of a city are crucial to its success and must be nurtured to ensure their needs are met. Team four was asked: how can Toronto become a compassionate and nurturing city that takes care of its residents? And how can we anticipate the needs of inhabitants and organizations to entice them to expand their roots in Toronto?

The team’s focus became transitioning newcomers to life in Toronto so they can reach their full potential, simultaneously catalyzing social and economic progress for the city at large.

“TO.O” is a proposal for a support system for immigrants that includes an immediate identification card and personalized map of the city; fast-tracked graduated licensing for foreign trained professionals; employer-employee matching database; and mentorship system between new and established immigrants.

Find out more about “TO.O” here.

Team 5 – Powered by Toronto

The team was assigned the theme of attracting talent. The team was asked to start with the proposition that a city’s talent pool, also referred to as its human capital, plays a key role in its economic growth and development. In an increasingly global environment this human capital is also a key competitive advantage and it is therefore essential to attract and retain the most talented individuals to nourish success. Team five was asked: how can Toronto become the most talented city in the world?

Team five proposed “Powered by Toronto,” a three-node system for Toronto to attract and retain the best talent in the world. The plan is based on three principles–Attract, Support & Celebrate–Toronto’s talent.

The proposal works through a system that includes a pop-up pavilion showcasing the innovation of Toronto, curated by prominent Toronto-based organization or company; green light zones to foster innovation and collaboration in action and highlight accomplishments of Torontonians regardless of origin.

Find out more about “Powered by Toronto” here.

Project Credits:
IwB faculty and staff
L’Institut Idée
The Spoke Club

Photo and Text Credits:
IwB faculty and staff
L’Institut Idee staff
Tucker MacLachlan

Project Tags:
L’Institut Idée, Spoke Club, charrette, city on the rise, innovation, mapping, global city

“We all know that Toronto is one of the great cities in the world, and yet the city has always had trouble ‘finding its voice’. The SMP Map and the subsequent charrette were great moments to sit down with thought leaders and people from across the city who, with the use of these tools, helped identify Toronto’s extraordinary uniqueness and emotional assets. It was a huge revelation for all the participants.”

– Syd Kessler, Principal and Co-founder, L’Institut Idée