Winnipeg's Exchange District alleys filled with bubbles, hammocks

The Exchange District's alleys were filled with bubbles, hammocks and even twinkling stars Friday.

Placemaking projects rejuvenate alleyways in Winnipeg’s west Exchange District

The Exchange District alleys were filled with bubbles, hammocks and even twinkling stars Friday. CBC's Teghan Beaudette reports. 1:50

The Exchange District's alleys were filled with bubbles, hammocks and even twinkling stars Friday.

The Creative Placemaking Challenge had 10 designers turn underused alleys in the west Exchange into places to play.

“What we wanted to do was to just give people from the arts and creative communities in Winnipeg license to go a little bit crazy for one day,” said Dominic Lloyd, the program and arts development manager for the Winnipeg Arts Council.

The council solicited bids in June for ideas to makeover the city’s alleys and drayways (covered alleys).
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      Then, they picked the 10 best ideas, and after six weeks of hard work, they were unveiled Friday.

      POP, an installation in an Arthur Street alley, pumped thousands of bubbles into the street.

      Glossy white chairs dotted either wall and bubble-solution was handed out to people for free.

      "I didn't know what was going to happen here! This is the first time we've turned them on,” said designer Liz Wreford Taylor after pressing start on the machines for the first time. “It's great. It looks better than I could have hoped!"

      Wreford Taylor works with Plain Projects, a design firm that usually works on more traditional urban design projects.

      But, when the chance to convert an alley came up, Taylor jumped at the chance.

      “I think people walk by these spaces every single day and ignore them,” she said, “There's cars parked or they're dirty or whatever and this really — I mean. Everyone's stopping already! You notice it. It's a place now."

      Just across the street, another alley was being filled in with flowers, peppers and other fresh foods.

      “The whole idea is that we’re showing the potential for fresh and affordable food in the neighbourhood and downtown,” said Nicole Jowette, the garden’s co-organizer. “I’m just excited for people to come!”

      Other installations included hammocks, an outdoor-clothing store a francophone-themed kite display and the most ambitious -- a grass-carpeted alley with a sky full of stars.

      Ashley James laid down fresh sod in a drayway and pinned hundreds of twinkling paper stars overhead.

      “As city dwellers we don't get to see the stars, we don't get to see the sky, so we kind of took a play on inside and outside,” she said. “So far people have been very interested somewhat confused but they seem to enjoy it!”

      Stan Kruse said turning a corner and seeing stars and grass was a massive improvement in the Exchange.

      “Between the music down in Market Square and the displays all around the back lanes and that, it makes it really enjoyable to be in Winnipeg in the summer,” said Kruse.

      The projects were only built to last the day (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and designers had a budget of $1,500 as well as short time frame of six weeks.

      Lloyd and the remaining designers hope some of the ideas will help guide a larger rejuvenation project in the Exchange District.