Mitigating Vancouver’s Urban Heat Island Effect

Downtown Eastside

Mitigating Vancouver’s Urban Heat Island Effect

Designing physical interventions to keep things cool in the DTES.




Fine Arts


FINA 2195: Advanced Design Studio - Design Collaboration


  • Philip Robbins

City of Vancouver:

  • Wesley Joe
  • Celia Winters


  • Healthy City Strategy

City goal area:

  • Being and Feeling Safe and Included


Four student groups explored, researched and designed physical interventions that would mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This area has little vegetation or canopy cover and numerous impermeable, hard surfaces (ie. concrete, asphalt), making it a prime urban heat island. The impact of this effect on residents is significant, as many have little access to proper shade or cooling and find it nearly impossible to avoid the summer heat.

Group 1: PART
Proposed the use of trees, benches and fabric canopies to create a cool social space around the Crab Park accessibility ramp. Read the proposal.

Students: Alessia Battilana Macri, Heather Paynter, Jeff Powell, Max TS. Yang

Group 2: Pigeon Park
Unique shade structure that would sit high enough in the trees so as to not take away from the existing totem pole. Design would also make use of existing water source for overhead spray misters.

Group 3: City Blocks

Students: Gabrielle Poitras, Fiona Thomas, Trinh Tran, Michaela Huebner, Isaac Ong

To take advantage of already shaded areas that lacked social infrastructure, this design proposed installing large, uniquely-shaped concrete blocks to create seating. The blocks, made from a colourful, specially-pigmented recycled material, can be customized with texture and sandblasted text. They are also modular and can be repositioned (using machinery) to create a diversity of seating.

Group 4: Shadow Catcher

Students: Gigi Charlebois, Azadeh Mehryar, Anna Busch, Sandra Kim

Proposed the use of a specialized fabric material spanned between existing objects such as lamp posts, trees or buildings to provide relief from the sun. They also demonstrated the use of a large tent-like structure to provide a wider area of shade.

Read more on the CityStudio blog.

Mitigating Vancouver’s Urban Heat Island Effect

Next Steps

At the end of term, four student groups presented their design ideas to a panel of experts at the Strathcona Branch Library including Joji Kumagai, Executive Director of the Strathcona BIA; Angela Danyluk, biologist with the City’s Sustainability Group; Wesley Joe, a City planner in the Downtown area; Celia Winters, an engineering assistant with the City’s Street Activities team; and Ileana Costrut, CityStudio Projects Coordinator.

From the four groups, a hybrid of two ideas were chosen by the panel to receive funding from the City’s Downtown Eastside Capital Grant and continue with the second phase of creating and testing a full-scale prototype.

The panel decided to choose elements from two groups: the concrete blocks and the simple spanning of fabric between existing structures. These two components will be carried forward into the second phase of the project, led by Langara and the Strathcona BIA with the help of hired students.