While the most known images of Vancouver feature the towers of its waterfront downtown, the vast majority of the city’s land area is zoned for single-family housing. The standard detached home on a 122 x 33 foot lot is found in almost every neighbourhood. Our recent LARC 502 design studio, led by assistant professor Fionn Byrne and adjunct professor Stephanie Braconnier, aimed to explore how the yards created by these lots can be rethought to improve the environment for the collective whole. The work is compiled in a new publication, Change in Common: Climate Change and the Future of the Yard.

The collection of design research asks: what is the form and appearance of responsible actions that community members can take within their yards to address contemporary environmental issues? Today’s residents face a warming city and a massive reduction in biodiversity, and their yards can be a tool to combat climate change. Students worked within the current spatial reality of private and individual ownership, while acknowledging the colonial practices that led to this structure.

 The opportunity to study the topic of the yard was the result of a collaboration between SALA, the City of Vancouver, and CityStudio Vancouver. As an innovation hub that connects city staff with faculty and students at the region’s universities, CityStudio Vancouver identified a match between the city’s project idea and the skills of our landscape architecture studio. The result was thirteen projects across seven neighbourhoods, each presenting opportunities to transform yards into spaces of ecological and social reparation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating a rapid shift to online learning midway through the semester, the method of project presentation changed as well. Rather than the traditional format of a studio review, Byrne and Braconnier assembled a publication that can be widely shared online, or purchased as a hard copy. The projects were also featured in the first all-digital Hubbub, CityStudio’s biannual project showcase.