By: Nate Hommel, co-chair Ed Bacon Memorial Committee
The Center is excited to announce the winner of this years Edmund N. Bacon Memorial Award: Jennifer Keesmaat of Toronto, Canada. As we all know too well, city building is a complex process requiring many people from numerous professions to come together in order to make change happen. Jennifer Keesmaat was the Chief Planner for Toronto for five years, a candidate for Mayor in the city’s most recent election, and has achieved global renown for her enthusiastic TED talks and the creative ways she engages the public in conversations about our cities. We think her approach to urbanism has made a difference in Canada and we are excited for her to share her ideas with Philadelphia. Enthusiastic optimism is a valued trait in urbanism, and Jennifer’s ability to bring to light new approaches to difficult issues, such as affordable housing, rethinking our relationship with the car, and walkability are models we can all use in our daily practice of progressive urbanism and city building.
The Center's Ed Bacon Memorial Committee was quite impressed with Keesmaat's time spent improving Toronto through innovative densification and walkability projects as well as engaging the citizenry through public roundtables. These achievements stand out as stellar examples of how thoughtful urban design can improve people’s daily lives. But the area of her expertise that most caught our committee's attention this year was her focus on respectful affordable housing in Toronto, an idea which dovetails nicely with the topic of our related 2019 Better Philadelphia Challenge (an international urban design competition for university students): to design solutions which improve the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, a diverse but economically poor neighborhood adjusting to a migrant population brought in by the opioid epidemic. We were also impressed with her passion to develop solutions to problems in Toronto, across Canada, and North America as a whole. To that end, she has initiated a series of Chief Planner Roundtables that act as a forum, bringing together the brightest minds from across Canada and North America to discuss and debate our most significant challenges. This is an idea that reminded us of Ben Franklin’s Junto founded in 1727 as a club for mutual improvement which led to the creation of The Library Company of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. The simple idea: bring great minds together in an open forum to share, discuss, debate, and discover ways to make our city a better place for all.
Please join us on February 21, 2019, at the Center for Architecture and Design for the 13th annual Edmund N. Bacon Memorial Awards + Talk to hear from Jennifer Keesmaat, see this year's winning Better Philadelphia Challenge projects, and meet the impressive students who created them.