University of Guelph students redesign Guelph's Wilson Street underpass into temporary pedestrian-friendly promedadeThe south end of the promenade will include a sitting area and art.

Story by Emma Drake

Two master of landscape architecture students at U of G are planning to make your next trip along Guelph’s Wilson Street underpass unforgettable.

As part of an independent study project, second-year student Cyrille Viola and third-year student Calen Hamelin will transform the underpass into a promenade for community engagement during the city’s John Galt Day festivities on Aug. 1.

“Many pedestrians pass through the site, but we feel there could be further improvements to the site to better utilize the area and improve the pedestrian environment,” says Hamelin.

The temporary redesign of the underpass will include spaces for leisure, socializing and recreation for all ages. A temporary beach and park will be constructed along with vendor booths on Wilson Street.

Art displays by various artists will hang along the retaining walls of the underpass. Viola and Hamelin also plan to hang blank canvases on the walls for visitors to draw on or write about their experiences and memories of the City of Guelph. For children, there will be chalk and a creative corner where they can try their hand at making items from wood.

Although the promenade is temporary, the art will remain after the festivities end. “We feel the artists have put a lot of thought into their pieces, and we will be keeping their work up for at least a month after the event,” says Viola.

The students are trying to reduce waste generated by the project by borrowing and renting materials and donating any purchased items to local community groups after the event.

In preparation for the installation, Viola and Hamelin have been coordinating with City of Guelph staff, hand-making components for the project and fundraising —the students have raised almost $2,000 to help fund the project. “We have been pleasantly surprised and extremely thankful for the support we have been receiving to make the Wilson Street promenade a success,” says Viola.

Ultimately the students hope their project will show Guelph citizens how simple initiatives can improve public spaces. Both plan to continue their work on similar urban projects after graduation.

“I feel urban spaces are successful when the built environment connects and integrates with the natural environment, and I’m confident that my exploration of landscape architecture at the University of Guelph will steer me in the right direction,” says Viola.