WeTown by Avoid Obvious Architects

In this interview, we talk to Vicky Chan of Avoid Obvious Architects about WeTown, their 2018 Landscape Architecture/Urban Planning Architecture MasterPrize winning design.

Avoid Obvious Architects place green and happy design at the core of their practice. With over twenty years of experience in architecture and urban planning, their team delivers award-winning buildings and cities. We believe design is a collaborative process to discover the greener and happier ways to live, work and play. As our name — Avoid Obvious Architects — suggests, we find unique solutions to bring green smiles to everyone.

For WeTown, the brief was deceptively simple — to provide a town design which allows 40,000 people to live, work and play, all within an 8-minute loop. We conducted an international survey to see how people can improve their work-life balance. Using the data and suggestions, we came up with a list of priorities, along with several must-have items. We compared the results with a similar survey done in the local city near the project site and then cross-examined these, looking at both similarities and differences. For example, the similar items included efficient transportation, proximity to destination, better walkability, and more nature. The new qualities included better food options, more public art, and better jobs.

Getting water, drainage and traffic to work for 40000 people is the biggest challenge. We worked with traffic engineers and a mechanical engineer to come up with solutions for road expansion, car-sharing programs, water reduction programs, rainwater collection, and greywater recycling.

The 8-minute journey from home to work will be filled with a farmers’ market, greenery, activities and excitement. Different active and passive strategies are also used in the buildings and master plan to promote a healthy lifestyle.

We are especially proud of the fact WeTown is a collective idea from people around the World.

I chose to follow this career path because I want to make the world a greener and happier place. The biggest influences and the people I most admire are my parents. They gave up their own dreams to create a situation where I can pursue my dream. I wish families never have to live in conditions such as those I experienced and my designs are a direct result of this — to improve life for other people who are in the same situation I was.

I like to share things with my family, friends and students and, as such, I am against the concept of ownership. I would love to share a tree house in the forest where I can work, live, and play.

In the future we want more women in our office to drive the design direction. We believe our discipline makes a real difference to the world because we are creating cities to improve lives. This is a huge mission and it takes a lot of time.

I am honored to be a recipient of the Architecture MasterPrize. I have shared my joy with my client who, in turn, shared it with the city’s mayor in Canada. The awards have created a good conversation and a chain effect to promote my ideas to create greener and happier cities.

Many thanks to Vicky Chan of Avoid Obvious Architects for answering our questions in such depth and reminding us that good design is a joyous and happy thing — something that can truly change the world for the better.