Alum Spotlight: Adele Therias + Neighbour Lab

In this series, we catch-up with CityStudio Vancouver alumni to find out where they are now, what they’ve been up to and how their CityStudio experience helped them get there.


Adele Therias

Current Roles:

Co-Founder and Executive Director for Neighbour Lab
Research Assistant for the UBC Geography Smart Earth project

University Credentials:

(In Progress) Bachelor of Arts in Geography with a minor in Urban Studies, University of British Columbia, expected graduation May 2019

When did you participate in CityStudio?

SFU Semester in Dialogue at CityStudio, Fall 2017

Tell us briefly about the problem and project you worked on?

Our project was called City Gone Wild. It was an installation that showcased businesses and organizations to engage residents in rewilding and greening ideas for Vancouver’s underutilized spaces. The display was part of our cohort’s Bridge Warming event under Cambie Street Bridge in November 2017.

How has your experience with CityStudio impacted you and/or your career?

CityStudio was an important journey that propelled me into the world of city planning.

The most impactful part of the program for me was the weekly dialogue session during which we had the opportunity to meet and speak with City of Vancouver and Parks Board. These meetings gave me a much better understanding of city processes and valuable insight into the variety of important work that happens at City Hall and in various other organizations. They also turned out to be important connections to develop the Neighbour Hub idea.

The experience of creating City Gone Wild helped me appreciate the importance of building meaningful relationships with stakeholders and nurturing those connections in order to create work that can raise everyone up.

What are you working on now?

With other UBC and Emily Carr alumni, I am developing Neighbour Lab, a transdisciplinary urban planning and design studio.

Our goal is to build neighbourhood-level resilience by engaging neighbours in physical urban design, acting as a bridge between residents and municipalities.

The team came together for an engineering competition last October, and we won first place for our community-based design called the Neighbour Hub. It is a structure to be built in public places that enhances resilience by engaging community members in resource stewardship and disaster preparedness.

In partnership with eatART foundation, we are working with the City of Vancouver to build a mobile prototype and test it in various neighbourhoods in support of the City’s existing Disaster Support Hubs. Our portfolio is also growing: we are currently working with a community in Fairfield, Victoria, to design and build an emergency preparedness bench.

What do you think Vancouver needs more of?

Vancouver needs more long-term friends. Just like any relationship, developing a meaningful connection between residents and the city requires the investment of time, mutual respect, problem-solving, and an expectation to be in each other’s lives for the long run. Considering the difficulties brought on by Vancouver’s unaffordability, I think our city needs to give people reasons to stick around and help make it a better place. What kinds of relationships make us stay despite significant challenges? In my experience, they are those that give us purpose, responsibility, and a sense of belonging.

My role in Neighbour Lab has (for the first time) made me want to stay committed to my relationship with this place and contribute what I can to this beautiful city. This feeling is one of the things I believe Neighbour Hubs can offer to fellow Vancouverites: they are meant to connect residents around a shared structure that reminds them of their responsibilities to each other and to their community.

What has inspired you lately?

A few weeks ago, I walked through the Vancouver Mural Festival on the last day of the event to see some of the new creative additions to my neighbourhood. I was taken aback by the beauty of the artwork and the adventure of discovering new alleyways.

As I wandered around, I observed children playing lego, people writing on a giant chalk wall, others relaxing in parklets… There was laughter, excitement and a general sense of wellbeing. It reminded me that art really does bring people together, and there is a certain magic to witnessing creative initiatives transform the physical appearance of the city streets, knowing that local community members have spearheaded the change.

Is there anything you’d like to ask (of) the CityStudio community?

Yes, please! Neighbour Lab is seeking sponsors and partners to help us build our first mobile prototype. If your organization would like to sponsor the Neighbour Hub or help our organization get off the ground, please contact me and we can discuss this further.

We would also love your support in terms of in-kind donations or discounts if you are in the business of fabrication, tools or materials. The internal components of the Hub will be built by eatART volunteers and UBC engineering students from Sustaingineering and Engineers for a Sustainable World. We are looking for engineers/builders who could help lead construction teams, and offer support as we develop the technical aspects of the Neighbour Hub’s components.

Alternately, we are always open to new connections and collaborations. If you would like to work together, or you have questions or ideas, let’s meet up! Contact me here: [email protected]

I also invite you to follow us on our various social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and consider joining our mailing list for very occasional (super exciting!) updates. More details and a video about the Neighbour Hub are available here: