Ariana Cancelli graduated from Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning in 2007. She’s since put her knowledge to work by starting Toronto’s Laneway Project, which focuses on improving and activating laneways throughout the city. We caught up with her to learn more.
Why did you start the Laneway Project?
I love parks and public space. I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling over the years and have always been inspired by the public spaces in great cities like Rome, Paris, Barcelona, and Bogota. I wanted to turn this passion into a career, but I didn’t see a job that would allow me to do that, so I decided to create my own. I noticed that there was a lot of potential in Toronto’s laneways, and it was a bit of an untouched territory.
What does the Laneway Project hope to achieve?
TLP aims to transform the way people think about, use, and design laneways in Toronto. We want laneways to be recognized as an essential part of the city’s public space network.
What have you learned so far from the Laneway project?
I have learned the importance of doing. Our goal is to change policy and the mindset of people and planners in Toronto. We could sit around talking, doing research and writing reports on this (which we still do). But we also look at opportunities to make a difference now such as creating laneway events, small greening projects, and murals. Through these small-scale projects, we get people talking and thinking about laneways in new ways, which helps us achieve our long-term goals.
Why is there such an interest in laneways these days?
Public space is a critical part of a livable city. At the same time, municipal budgets are very tight. I think citizens and governments around the world are realizing that they need to think creatively about how they use the public spaces they have. The Highline in NYC and the Bentway in Toronto are also great examples of this. Laneways are an amazing untapped resource of public space.