On Thursday, September 28, our Calgary DIALOG studio proudly hosted the standout evening session of the 2023 Council for Canadian Urbanism (CanU) Forum highlighted by a keynote from Eugenia Di Girolamo, the esteemed Chief Urban Designer of the City and County of Denver.
Eugenia’s thought-provoking presentation, titled “Lead with Design: City building in Denver”, drew considerable attention, offering event attendees an insight into the practice of urban design and city building in Denver and its renewed commitment to elevating design and a people-first approach.
According to Eugenia, designing a city that caters to the needs and aspirations of its residents is crucial, and the concept of human scale plays a vital role in achieving this. As designers, we must be inclusive in our approach and consider designing for everyone and she encourages experimentation and innovation to create a vibrant environment; the liveliness of a place and the diversity of people and our experiences are all important aspect of our cities.
Stressing the importance of collaboration, Eugenia highlighted how different teams can improve overall efficiency. She shared her perspective on collaborations involving the City, Development Committee, and Urban Designers, and coming together to ensure alignment in understanding the city’s long-term goals and aspirations. This shared vision serves as a guiding light for development projects to streamline the planning process and implement projects without unnecessary delays.
Sharing insights from her time as a planner in Italy, Eugenia highlighted the significant differences between cities in Europe and the United States. In Italy, public realms like plazas and streets are central to communities and prioritize pedestrian-friendly environments, whereas American cities are shaped by private environments and reflect a sense of individualism.
Her message was clear: we must restore urban vibrancy at the heart of our cities and transition from the urban models of the past. For Denver, this means considering inclusive centres and neighbourhood districts for work and play that provide easy access to transit and nature – a place where people want to be and live. Density is the key to fostering vibrancy and promoting transit-oriented development. As she mentions, the decisions we make today impact people for generations to come, making it imperative to prioritize inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability in urban planning now.
The evening saw our Calgary studio transform into a vibrant hub of activity and discussion, where members of the design community, alongside DIALOG Partners and staff, connected on ideas for the future and soaked in the ambience of our inspiring space. DIALOG Chair, Antonio Gomez-Palacio, was also in attendance, sharing his thoughts on the importance of such gatherings for our community.
As a hub of design and innovation, our Calgary DIALOG studio is honoured to have been a part of such a significant event and we look forward to more opportunities to collaborate, learn, and inspire.