Thinking Hat

Thinking Hat



In 2013 SPECTACLE created a self-initiated exhibition to imagines possible futures for the revitalization of downtown Medicine Hat, with a wide range of preservation, architectural, landscape, urban design and infrastructural visions that could be realized within five years. The exhibition is a collaboration with photographer Luke Fandrich, who has been working to document the existing historical urban fabric of Medicine Hat and surrounding cities and landscapes, and with event coordinator Jamie Reid. The exhibition was held in a vacant building - the Beveridge Block - and was coordinated to take place during Alberta Culture Days and the Downtown Jane’s Walk.

There is a significant yet often overlooked potential of Medicine Hat’s downtown. Why is it that, although the downtown is currently undergoing a renaissance, Medicine Hat hasn’t yet fully embraced the potential of it’s social, institutional, cultural and geographical center? The contribution of work by SPECTACLE imagines possible futures, with a wide range of renovation, architectural, landscape, urban design and infrastructural visions that could be realized within the next five years.

all the projects


There are many opportunities and possibilities for the downtown. The map above shows seven sites that have been chosen as design case studies in this exhibition.


Downtown Revitalization Strategies

Our evaluation revealed a number of key strategies towards the reactivation of the downtown

01 Add More Living
Increase the amount and diversity of residential properties, both to own and to rent. More “eyes on the street”, enhances community, makes streets safer, increases street activity, and enhances the economic viability of the center by increasing the number of consumers and the tax base.

02 Add More Working
Foster and support diverse industries, so that the downtown becomes a thriving economy. Boutique destinations aren’t enough to revitalize the center on their own; a vibrant mix of clean industry (3d printing and other digital manufacturing methods), office, retail, cultural and other work spaces can drive innovation and economic growth.

03 Continue to Support Social Life and Culture
Allow the center to continue to be the beating cultural heart of the city. Public amenities for leisure, culture, events and activities are an investment in community. Support the efforts of local artists and artisans.

04 Improve the Quality of Public Spaces
Design streets and plazas for activation by restaurant and bars, events and activities. Wider sidewalks, relaxed patio restrictions, temporary use of parking stalls as patios in the summer, activity parks and plazas, as well as continuous public zones along public amenities like the South Saskatchewan River.

05 Make Preservation a Priority
Maintain, repair and activate historical buildings to celebrate the history of Medicine Hat. Many buildings are currently suffering from deferred maintenance, and this puts them in threat of demolition. A city should share its history by keeping buildings that reflect various moments of time and significant events.

06 Embrace the Future
While preserving the past is important, the downtown needs new development, great design, good ideas and inspired investors. The downtown is more than a place to make money, it’s also a place to foster the community spirit of a city and create a legacy for future generations to enjoy.

07 Finish the Urban Form
Great streets are created by well designed and complete urban forms. Urban gaps break up the street-wall and spread out the great institutions and organizations already downtown. New buildings might be encouraged to fill the gaps, with a priority placed on high quality architectural and urban design - net contributors to the city and community built with long term rather than short term thinking. Pop-up programs in temporary structures (inflatable buildings, greenhouses, containers, food trucks and more) could be used to immediately activate the space, creating critical mass and increasing property values for future development.

08 Encourage Around-the-Clock Activities
Develop building programs to share space, and activate the street 24 hours per day 7 days per week. Mixed use spaces provide around-the-clock activity, and using existing buildings with programs that span around the clock can do the same, even if they are temporary (like pop-up shops!).

09 Increase the Resiliency of the Infrastructure
Design downtown and surrounding areas to increase connectivity and permanance. Durable and resilient infrastructures allow a community to survive and thrive during economic recessions and natural disasters, and reduce spending on quick-fix solutions.

10 Calm Traffic and Eliminate Surface Parking
Increase safety and reduce vehicle speed through design, creating a pedestrian friendly zone. By requiring underground parking for all new buildings, and prohibiting new above-ground parkades and surface parking lots, the downtown can densify while opening usable areas for plazas and parks.





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Exhibition photos of Thinking Hat – Photography by Luke Fandrich



Batus park/plaza





Corner Offices


Third Street Improvements


The M


Photo by Luke Fandrich


Photo by Luke Fandrich


Photo by Luke Fandrich

Heritage Building photos part of “Around the Hat” – Photography by Luke Fandrich