Go take a walk. No, really. Walk around your neighbourhood. How does it look? How does it smell?

How does it feel?

I thought about these questions as I walked through Belmont Village on my way to dinner last weekend. I was inspired to notice my surroundings by Alison Brooks, a University of Waterloo alumna who recently gave a lecture at the Perimeter Institute. Her talk was part of the Building Waterloo Region lecture series.

Building Waterloo Region is a region-wide architecture festival that explores our community, and the buildings that define and illustrate our past, present and future.

Supported by festival sponsor and local tech company, Kik, it’s a heady combination of tours, lectures and individual exhibits. It wraps up at the end of the summer.

Brooks’ lecture was of particular interest to me. The principal architect at the firm that bears her name, Brooks was named the 2013 outstanding female architect in the world. In 2012, she was was honoured as the outstanding architect in England. The Sunday Times describes her as one of of the 500 most influential people in Britain.

She came back to Canada to deliver her talk, entitled, “News from London: Future Heritage and the Culture(s) of City Building.” Through the lecture, which draws from her experience designing homes and communities in the United Kingdom, Brooks kept expanding on the role of a community in creating a home.

“City building is a collective activity,” said Brooks. “We really need to stop building for the short term. If we do, places lose their identity because of a lack of imagination and quality. We need character and identity (in cities).”

And so what?

Brooks’ challenge to her audience was that all of us — residents, government officials, architects and developers — have responsibilities in creating the spaces where we work, live and play.

“Buildings should have a role and not be disposable.” Brooks said. “Buildings represents the culture of the users.”

In short, buildings impact an ecosystem. The tech industry certainly has its own culture growing and complementing the larger Waterloo Region community. While these companies are not designing actual buildings, they are creating a future that gives meaning to places.

A small startup looking for affordable office space may not be thinking too deeply about the future of a city; but our choices of where to start a company help tell the story of a city.

The tech industry has a responsibility to create more than just companies. As companies such as Vidyard, Thalmic Labs and Axonify reclaim old buildings to grow their technology, they also build a future story of Waterloo Region.

And Heather Galt, vice-president, marketing at Kik agrees.

“It just made sense to sponsor Building Waterloo Region,” Galt said as she explained why the Waterloo-based developer of mobile messaging apps decided to support the program.

“We're very committed to staying in Waterloo: Waterloo is a hotbed of smart, talented, mobile-savvy people. We really liked that Building Waterloo Region looks at the history of the region, and also encourages the community to talk about our future.

“Building Waterloo Region is forward-looking and a forward-thinking program.”

Brooks also sees a strong future story for Waterloo Region.

She credits the region’s investment in important architecture as an obvious, integral part of the story; but she also sees our landscape being defined by projects that reflect our urban values, such as the ION Light Rail Transit line.

“The ambition and scope of the (Building Waterloo Region) festival is fantastic.” Brooks said. “I really hope that it will open everybody’s eyes to the quality and significance of the regions’ architecture and landscape and how important it is to build on this legacy.”


There is a range of upcoming activities to get you out and about — and maybe enjoy the architecture in Waterloo Region while you’re at it… I see and hear… downtown will be singing the blues all weekend long at the TD Kitchener Blues Festival. The festival’s free performances start at 1 p.m. on Friday Aug. 8 when Joshua David & Cam Moses perform on the Downtown Kitchener BIA stage. The festival offers free performances at its three stages all weekend long, and also offers children’s programming at THEMUSEUM. And a late-night concert series at participating downtown bars… The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce’s 23rd Annual Golf Scramble is coming up. While foursomes are all sold out, there are still individual tickets for sale for the Aug. 14 game up at Grey Silo in Waterloo…. Finally, if you want to experience what it’s like to start a company, Startup Weekend Guelph is offering us a 25-per-cent discount on the ticket registration fee. Use promo code "COMMUNITECH" to register for the Aug. 15- 17 event.

Have suggestions about events I should be checking out? Drop me a line or tweet me @write_girl.