Winter City Design Competition winners create spaces for all ages

Public spaces, especially in downtowns, are often not created with younger generations in mind. The two winners of The City of Calgary’s inaugural Winter City Design Competition flipped that notion on its head and created interactive, winter-friendly public spaces in Calgary’s downtown that challenge and engage Calgarians of all ages, not just the usual downtown office and entertainment crowd. 

“I wanted to design something that could be used by kids and adults, so that everyone could have fun just like kids do,” said Seeton Naested,  the 12-year old design lead of “Wowie”, one of the winning designs. “A lot of public spaces downtown are not really angled towards kids’ enjoyment. It’s great to see something put in that kids or anyone can play with.”

Designers and architects from The TULA Project and Mta Design sought out Seeton to lead the design of “Wowie” because it was clear to them that youth have a major stake in the future of public spaces that give downtowns life, but often do not have an opportunity to be involved in their design or creation.


“Wowie” is livening up the Stephen Avenue, between Centre Street and 1 Street S.W. The goal of the activation is to encourage wonder, exploration, and interaction in a public space along downtown’s hallmark main street. The design is comprised of three separate platforms that provide opportunities to sit, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere of the street during the darkened winter season. Through creative thinking and teamwork pedestrians can also interact with the installation by solving puzzles and activating motion and pressure light sensors. When sensors are activated, different light shows are triggered.

The second winning design, “Infinito”, was born out of a similar desire – to make downtown Calgary more attractive to young people during all seasons. The team, comprised of young artists and architects and engineers in training, took a look at Stephen Avenue and wanted to design a public space that was more appealing to young Calgarians living in the social media age.

“For us youth, Calgary’s downtown is a bit boring – it’s not attractive and interesting enough to get people to spend time there,” said Bosco Chik, a Visual Studies student at the University of Calgary and lead designer of “Infinito”. “When we were designing this project, we looked at what youth are doing nowadays and created something that was vibrant, modern, playful and interactive.”

infinito“Infinito” is intended to make Stephen Avenue a more welcoming place in winter. A vibrant, bright tunnel was created to encourage intimacy, connection, and social interactions. The tunnel was designed to compress the walkable space along Stephen Avenue and encourage people to stop and chat. Also incorporated into the design are bold backdrops for photography and social media.

The Winter City Design Competition is a partnership between The City and the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape to imagine the possibilities for eye-catching and interactive displays along Stephen Avenue. “Wowie” and “Infinito” met the competition’s goals of exploring and pushing beyond the boundaries of what public spaces look like in midst of a Calgary winter.

“We know the winter season is long in Calgary and we wanted to invite the design community to experiment with our outdoor spaces and re-imagine a winter experience that entices people to head out, linger and explore along downtown Calgary’s hallmark main streets. And we couldn’t be more happy with the results,” said Kate Zago, The City’s project lead for the Winter City Design Competition. “Infinito and Wowie are two amazing examples of pushing the boundaries of what public spaces in Calgary can be during the winter and are looking at these public spaces through the lenses of two groups of Calgarians that are often not considered when these spaces are designed – kids and youth.”

The competition is part of The City’s Future of Stephen Avenue Activate + Experiment project, to re-imagine Stephen Avenue from City Hall to Mewata Armoury. This project is testing out ideas and experiments and measuring impacts, to help inform the future of downtown’s iconic main street. It is also a component of Calgary’s Winter City Strategy, which strives to celebrate Calgary’s unique winter opportunities, extend Calgary’s festival and event season, find ways to improve safety and accessibility and improve the economy, especially in our downtown core – during the winter.

To learn more about the two winning designs and to see all the submissions for the Winter City Design Competition, please visit