Developing a ‘care-full’ approach to densification, diversification, and conservation in suburban landscapes that were ‘not built for change’
To speak of participatory conservation typically brings to mind cases where citizens mobilise to protect threatened forms of material heritage in ‘downtown’ contexts or ‘natural’ spaces at the rural-urban fringe, which in turn is a locus for efforts toward ecological recovery. Less commonly do we think of participation, conservation, and ecological recovery in the everyday (post)suburban landscapes found across Canada. In this paper we explore how densification, diversification, and conservation might converge in such ubiquitous settings by applying Joan Tronto’s ethic of care. If these built environments are marked by obduracy (a stubborn resistance to change), the latter-day affordability crisis and the challenges of ageing infrastructure add extra vigour to longer-standing efforts to deconstruct and reassemble the (im)material frameworks that both formed and now confine (post)suburban space. We share highlights from a review of debates on care and repair for post-suburban space with early results of our empirical research into crowdsourcing new tactics for participatory adaptation of existing residential fabrics in Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver, while concurrently probing the ‘social acceptability’ of specific densification strategies for a greater diversity of housing types. How should contextual and transformative design be approached in (post)suburban settings in ways that acknowledge their hybridity (as landscapes that are neither urban nor suburban) ? What mechanisms hold promise for encouraging ‘care-full’, sustainable, and ‘bottom-up’ transformations of these fabrics ? How are potential changes perceived by diverse publics, and how can visual aids foster deeper participation, communication, and agency among actants ?