Ottawa's street furniture Design

There is no question that Ottawa's street furniture needs a complete redesign. They look like they're from the 70s: Old, brown and bulky. They're not fun. They have no personality. So much so that the city developed an Integrated Street Furniture Program (ISFP) "to improve community streetscape and design, reduce advertising clutter, and provide an increase in service while simultaneously generating additional revenue." According to Designing Ottawa, "the idea is to give a contract to a private company that will supply the furniture at little or no cost to the city in exchange for advertising rights on the furniture".

It's too bad only one private company will take over this project. I would have made it a contest and had the citizens vote on their favorite design. Anyway, hopefully it will be a creative company that will propose something original, unique and fun. I personally think that it would be fun to change the design according to the neighborhood so each would have it's own personal street furniture style. You would be able to recognize the location based on the design. I think it's a good way to give the neighborhoods a bit of personality and also encourage residents who live there to take more pride into their environment and take care of it.

Another interesting thing would be to integrate technology in bus stops, a bit like the interactive bus stop proposed for the city of Zaragoza, Spain. "The Adaptable Bus Stop, incorporates several types of digital technologies in order to offer new services to the public, allow for cost-effective manufacturing, and [generate] advertising revenue".

A parametric design model determines a unique design for each stop providing optimal sheltering at minimal cost. Bus riders can plan their trip on a interactive map, exchange community relevant information on a digital message board, surf the web, and use the media on the bus shelter as an interface to their mobile devices.

Wouldn't it be neat to have bus shelters with integrated surface computing as well? That would definitely put Ottawa on the international map. There are so many creative and intelligent designs out there, it would be a shame to repeat the same old thing (square bus shelters with aluminum frames) instead of pushing the envelope like it's been done in other cities, as shown below.

Whimsical street furniture in Tokyo, Japan

(via Flickr)

City Lounge in St. Gallen, Switzerland

(via coolboom)

The Red Ribbon Project in Qinhuangdao, China.

(via coolboom)

I hope whoever gets the contract makes it fun as well. We'll see. The change is scheduled for 2011.


  1. Ottawa definitely needs some spicing up. You would think as the capital of Canada, more effort would be made to keep it looking fresh and modern.

    You're right about our bus shelters -- they're UG-LY!!! That interactive shelter in Spain is really cool.

    I think they could do something better along the Canal too, than plain old benches.

    We need something like the City Lounge in Switzerland!!

    Kelly @ DesignTies

  2. Totally! Ottawa is fortunate to have the Ottawa river, the Rideau canal, the Rideau river... They are beautiful places, but I haven't seen anything to enhance these places and encourage citizens and tourists to sit back, relax and enjoy the view!

  3. Our bus shelters could be so much cooler. They are Hor-awful! Especially considering Ottawa's transit system is supposed to be one of the best in N.A. (unless O'Brien ruins it, which he seems intent on doing...but that's a whole other story) and is studied and visited by other transit planners from around the world, you'd think the city would have more pride in the appearance of OC-related buildings and furnishings. The inside of OC Transpo is nothing to look at either (not so much the garages, 'cuz, well, they're garages, but the administrative and public spaces). My husband is a driver...if only that gave me an "in".

  4. Hor-awful. LOL :) I agree. There's a lot of room for improvement. I tried the OC bus a couple time now and I have to say : I'm not too impressed. Aside from the look, the organization (at least for the bus I took) was bad. Their website gave a time different that the time posted at the bus stop. The code in order to know when the next bus was coming did no correspond to the right bus lane and the driver was 10 minutes late for no apparent reason and didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with that... The best in N.A... Really?

  5. I've never taken a bus in Ottawa, so I don't really know anything about how the system runs. But I used to take buses and the subway in Montreal. If I just missed the 215 coming out of the subway station, that meant a 1/2 hour (or longer) wait for the next 215, and then a 1+ hour bus ride. UGH!!!! I HATE buses!!! (No offense to your hubby, Sarah!!)

    You know what we should do?? We should get together and come up with an urban design project for the city and enter this contest!! I bet between us, we could come up with something great!! :-)


  6. I might take you up on that Kelly. I would love to participate...


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