Opening a window on the future of Laval’s downtown core

City working collaboratively on creative solutions with MIT’s Senseable City Lab

The City of Laval brought together several dozen members of its information technology community last month for some creative brainstorming on how to make downtown Laval a better place to live and to do business.

From the left, Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer and Laval city councillor Christine Poirier (an executive-committee member with responsibilities for economic development) took part in the closing plenary session on Oct. 27. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

With help from IT experts and researchers from Massachussetts Institute of Technology’s Senseable City Laboratory, 40 participants in the two-day long conference held at the Cosmodôme developed concepts and ideas on how to creatively integrate new technologies downtown to improve the quality of life of residents and business people.

Working with MIT

It was the third time the City of Laval worked collaboratively with MIT on a project designed to generate ideas to improve aspects of life in the emerging downtown core. From Oct. 26 – 27, conference participants from Laval were led by MIT staff and Masters degree students in a range of workshops.

The MIT Senseable City Laboratory is a digital laboratory within MIT’s City Design and Development group, within the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, working in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab. The lab aims to investigate and anticipate how digital technologies are changing the way people live and their implications at the urban scale.

The goal of the participants, according to the city, was to explore how new analytical methods and technologies might be applied to improve the quality of life of the population, especially regarding the environment, transportation, housing, culture, agricultural food production and recreation.

Results to be published

At the end of the two-day exercise, the participants had the opportunity during a plenary session to present the concepts they developed. Additional reaction and feedback were gathered at the same time. According to the city, the information and data generated by the workshops will be published in a guide unique to Laval, setting out in detail the various ideas for furthering the development of the downtown area.

Laval is the first city in Quebec to have signed up for MIT’s Senseable City Lab program. The internationally-recognized program uses the sessions it leads with municipal officials to study interactions between cities, residents and technologies to develop leading-edge solutions.

The two-day MIT Senseable City Lab seminar included brainstorming sessions to develop new concepts and ideas for improving the quality of life in Laval’s emerging downtown core. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Multidisciplinary approach

The Lab’s work draws on diverse fields such as urban planning, architecture, design, engineering, computer science, natural science and economics to capture the multi-disciplinary nature of urban problems and deliver research and applications that allow citizens to make choices leading towards a more liveable urban experience. Among the lab’s partners are a group of corporations that includes AT&T, General Electric, Audi, ENEL, SNCF, as well as cities such as Copehhagen, London, Singapore, Seattle and Florence.

Projects undertaken by the Senseable City Lab have included “The Copenhagen Wheel,” which debuted at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, “Trash_Track,” shown at the Architectural League of New York and the Seattle Public Library, “New York Talk Exchange,” featured at the Museum of Modern Art, and Real Time Rome, included in the 2006 Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Boyer sees the potential

During the plenary session on the last day, Mayor Stéphane Boyer told the gathering that there is a lot of potential in Laval for the implementation of the emerging concepts and ideas. “First of all, we’re a young city in full growth,” he said.

“We’re a city with a lot of diversity, with urbanized and rural areas. There’s a lot of space still that remains to be developed, re-developed and reimagined. We have an economy that is super-diversified. This is a place that is boiling over with activity for rethinking and reimagining Laval’s future.”