ottawa home and garden show

I went to the Ottawa Home and Garden Show last week to see what it was all about and I have to say, I was rather dissapointed. Here's why:

1. Inappropriate location
The show took place at Landsdowne Park. I think this location is totally inappropriate for a home show unless it is properly retrofitted to inspire home owners and help them improve their home and garden. Lansdowne Park looks like an old sports center that hasn't been taken cared of for years and that desperately needs a makeover. It just doesn't measure up to to places like Place Bonaventure, the Palais des Congres, or the Metro Toronto Convention Center. And I don't understand outdoor ticket booths. They look like ice fishing shelters! What if it rained that day?

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

2. Lack of organization and consistency

On my way to the car (way in the back), after my visit, I was approached by three people who were looking for the entrance to the show. There was absolutely no direction indications for people who came by car and had to park way in the back. Also, I didn't see any pamphlets with a map of the show indicating where each supplier was located. There were 4 separate buildings to go to. Some visitors were able to keep half of their tickets and some didn't. There was no exit route after visiting the show in the first building. So once you were done visiting you had to go back through the "vendors corridor" again.

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

3. Lack of attention to details and inspiration
I believe that a home show, like a design show, should inspire homeowners to improve their living space by showcasing new ideas and new products. To do that, you need to take the time to present your products and services in the right manner and it seems like this year a lot of exhibitors missed the mark on that.

For example the design of the stage had some good elements. The white chairs along the path towards the stage were a good idea but the burgundy chair detracted from the modern feel of it and not much attention seemed to have been paid to the floor aside from the black carpet. To me, it looked like an incomplete project.
Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

Some exhibitors took the time to erect solid walls (very good) as opposed to keeping the default black curtains (very bad) and used nice flooring but the space was either unfinished, too cluttered with various products or scattered.

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

But I have to applaud the efforts of some exhibitors, like Vert Design, EQ3 and Maison Bonneville who paid more attention to details and as such made a much better first impression.

Vert Design did a really nice job. Their booth was attractive, simple and complete. They had lighting, nice simple colors that went well with one another. The design of the booth reflected the type of service they offered.

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

EQ3 had actual living spaces that gave you a good idea on how their furniture would look like in your space. They had plates on the table, art on the wall, fish in the fishbowl, etc.

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

Maison Bonneville made an excellent effort by presenting a complete house with proper accessories. They even took the time to landscape around the house and stage it.

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009Ottawa Home and Garden Show 2009

I think many Ottawa exhibitors should put a lot more effort into the presentation of their booth and take it upon themselves to inspire visitors. This is a first step I think to get to the same level as other trade shows like the ones in Montreal and Toronto. Just to give you an idea, here are some pictures of booths I took during the Salon de l'habitation (an equivalent to the Ottawa Home and Gardern show in Montreal) in 2004 and 2007.

Salon de l'habitation (Montreal, 2004)
Salon de l'habitation 2004 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2004 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2004 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2004 Montreal

Salon de l'habitation (Montreal, 2007)
Salon de l'habitation 2007 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2007 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2007 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2007 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2007 Montreal
Salon de l'habitation 2007 Montreal

See what I mean? And the design shows (I don't believe there is one in Ottawa yet) like the IDS in Toronto or the SIDIM in Montreal have even more spectacular booths! (Maybe I'll show some pictures next time, but you can visit my Flickr page for some pictures taken at IDS08 in Toronto)

So, as an exhibitor, if you don't know what to do to inspire visitors for the next show, hire a good designer or decorator! There are good ones in Ottawa, I've seen some nice places. Of course I'd be more than happy to help you too. Maybe I'll do one next year... we'll see.


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.

10 fundamental concepts for a better city

Have you heard about Ottawa's Urban Forum? From what I understand, it is a group of professionals from various fields providing free lectures on various topics.

I recently attended their latest lecture, entitled "Design, Society and Well-being: Making the Link" presented by David Witty, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture in the University of Manitoba. It was quite interesting. The lecture was presented as followed:

David Witty will express his thoughts on the growing consensus that design will be critical to get us out of the social, ecological, and economic mess we are in. In his view, the environmental design professions: architecture, landscape architecture, planning and interior design, have a role to play individually and collectively to ensure a sustainable future that provides quality of life. This is especially pertinent to Ottawa as we complete our Official Plan review.

A lot of ideas and concepts were mentioned. The 10 things I retained from this lecture are:

1. Design is in and societies seek design innovation
2. Cities are powerful symbols of what we got right and what we got wrong
3. We're in a mess. We lost proportion, scale and harmony
4. There is a difference between city design and urban design
5. There should be a social implication in design.
6. Poverty needs to be addressed in design
7. Attractiveness of place is the new variable in competing cities
8. Cities should be designed with kids in mind. Public schools downtown are good indicators of a better city.
9. Multidisciplinary design is important
10.Being the nation's capital add an important layer in the importance of city design

Quite a few of the ideas and concepts that were presented go along my way of thinking when it comes to design :) There's a lot of work to do.

The next lecture, entitled "Going Underground" will be presented by Michel Boisvert and James Parakh, Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 7pm. He's a summary of the upcoming lecture:

With Ottawa planning a transit tunnel through its downtown, some have suggested that this will be a great opportunity to make an underground pedestrian network. This lecture will feature experts from Toronto and Montreal who will discuss of the successes and pitfalls of their extensive underground pedestrian networks.


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