A new piece of public art along Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway is not only encouraging greater socialization between community members, but it also serves as a valuable resource in the event of an emergency.
The Neighbour Hub features a welcoming seating area and community bulletin board alongside a hand-powered generator, which serves as an emergency charger for handheld devices. In addition, the installation features a map of local disaster supply caches for the community.
Developed by Neighbour Lab — a design and urban planning cooperative founded by four UBC and Emily Carr University of Art + Design alumni — the hub aims to create more cohesive and resilient communities through public installations that double as disaster response gathering points and information centres.
But, according to Adele Therias, UBC Geography alumna and co-founder of Neighbourhood Lab, the idea of community resilience goes beyond disasters.
“It’s also about other long-term challenges such as loneliness, which, as we know, is a significant problem in a lot of big cities. So, the whole Neighbour Hub design process, which encourages creating those community connections, is really valuable in many ways.”
Project lead Sam Hahn, a chemical and biological engineering student at UBC and president of the university’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), adds, “This iteration of the Neighbour Hub is a scaled-down version of what we one day hope to install. It is meant to be a pilot project for the city, to garner public support for more substantial installations in the future.”
ESW worked on the technical design elements of the project, which included building the hand crank to act as a charger. In the future, the team hopes to incorporate radio communication and a solar powered water purification system.
By tackling the issue of disaster response — which has major implications for all community members — the group is deepening the relevance and public impact of UBC’s research and education (Strategy 16: Public Relevance).
Visit Innovation UBC to learn more about the collaborative and innovative Neighbour Hub installation.