Posted by: jillianglover | April 22, 2013

Reimagine Your Park with CityStudio

By Alexandra Venner

On April 6th, Vancouver got its  own public piano – the first in two years – dropped on McAuley Park  – a small, triangle-shaped piece of land at the intersection of Kingsway, Fraser and East 15th. This small parcel of under-utilized greenspace includes grass and ginger weed for its surface, a few grand trees (including one of Vancouver’s oldest oak trees), and a small garden area on its eastern side.

McAuley Park

The piano was part of the Spring 2013 City Studio’s ‘Reimagine Your Park’ project. CityStudio is an energetic hub of learning and leadership where students  design and  implement Vancouver’s Greenest  City solutions.  Our goal for the project was to demonstrate the importance of revitalizing orphaned greenspace in order to increase the city’s accessibility to nature and engagement with community. We asked ourselves, how could such space in the city be more productive and engaging?

Myself and three other students selected McAuley Park for its ripe energy and charming community, including its diverse businesses on East 15th, where you can enjoy a bold mug of coffee at Matchstick or a slice of delicious rum cake from the Lions Den.

In early March we held community conversations with the business owners on East 15th Ave to gather input and ideas on the McAuley Park space. The outcome was an expressed need to increase the friendliness, accessibility and usage of the space through small-scale improvements.  Thus, to support such needs and an intersection that continues to grow and change, our selection process for what would be an appropriate intervention given our time frame, budget, and barriers with the City, resulted in our solution: sculptural seating, a public piano, and a celebratory event.

To enhance usage of the space, we wanted to create an inviting central gathering space for people to be, which would allow for informal conversation and community scale programming. We collaborated with Kim Cooper, a local inventor, designer and builder extraordinaire, to build an interactive and colorful sculptural seating arrangement.


To really reimagine this space and to challenge people’s presumptions of the usage of public space in the city, we piloted Vancouver’s first public piano. The piano served the community’s prominent arts culture by providing an outlet for children, youth, and adults to explore musical creativity in a unique environment. At the same time, McAuley Park challenges the presumptions of where a piano is traditionally enjoyed by immersing it in the natural environment.



On April 6th, as part of CityStudio’s Engagement Expo, we showcased our revitalized public space in hopes that people would have a seat with us, have a conversation, and play a tune. Toddlers, kids, teenagers, adults, East 15th Ave business owners, and City of Vancouver staff did just that. This event not only began the dialogue for a vibrant public space at McAuley Park, but also continued the discussion of revitalizing small park spaces in Mount Pleasant to address the park deficiency of the neighborhood.


The Reimagine Your Park Project with CityStudio is over, but at the same time it is only the beginning. There is too much contagious energy in and around the McAuley Park space that we want to continue to weave ourselves into.The challenge, to replicate the process undertaken at McAuley Park to revitalize other orphaned greenspace in City, one public piano at a time…





  1. Delightful project in a delightful location — though the claim to being the city’s “first public piano” isn’t historically accurate Two years ago, in the summer of 2011, Livable Laneways Society, whose founders are based in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, debuted a public piano in a commercial lane “terrace” (off Broadway, first lane west of Main Street). This was the site of their summer “Paths to Plazas” series (2010-2012) of night markets and other interventions in Vancouver’s public realm.

    • Thanks Sylvia. The article has been corrected.

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