The 21 designs are ready for their close up

27 student designers (19 from Alberta College of Art + Design‘s first year Object Design class and eight from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology‘s Capstone Projects) were challenged to design an artistic drinking fountain for Riley Park.

One design will be chosen for installation near Riley Park’s popular children’s playground.

On April 7, 2016, all 21 designs debut together.

Tell us what you like about each design when you visit the exhibit at Blank Page Studio (1221B Kensington Road NW, Calgary, 2nd floor, entrance left of the mural) as part of This Is My City logos as of 2016-04-06Follow Water for Riley for updates: Twitter @waterforriley
Please contribute to our beautiful drinking fountain project through the Parks Foundation and specify your support is for Water for Riley.donate button

Purposes of the Water for Riley Project:

Riley Park’s nine hectares boast a cricket pitch, playground, wading pool, wooded areas, gorgeous memorial gardens, and open areas for rest, sports and picnics. Riley Park encourages activities for children. Yet Riley Park lacks facilities, such as drinking water. As an historic jewel among Calgary’s parks, Riley Park deserves an artistic drinking fountain. The volunteer committee believes success comes from community and builds community.

The Water for Riley Project is based on five principles:

  1. Health: Thirsty visitors must leave, or bring bottled, sweet, or caffeinated drinks. Safe, sustainably delivered water on site shows a caring, welcoming community.
  2. Environment: Discarded disposable cups and bottles litter the trash, bushes, and fence line. It’s an unsustainable waste of resources when a fountain would refill reusable containers.
  3. Community building: This project brings together the park’s neighbours for the first time in a century. The Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Association, Hillhurst School, This Is My City Art Society, City of Calgary, local businesses and residents are involved. ACAD and SAIT students experienced a design challenge the Calgary Foundation funded.
  4. Economic well-being: Attractions attract. The Kensington businesses work hard to make our community a visitors’ destination. An artistic drinking fountain supports that goal.
  5. Other collective benefits of this project to our community and Calgary include:
  • connect people to place in an inner city destination,
  • increase energy for volunteerism and community engagement,
  • facilitate being in nature in a dense urban space and increase environmental awareness,
  • share knowledge of Riley Park as a designated historic resource,
  • inspire students,
  • encourage eyes on the street and crime reduction with families in the park,
  • join the international Blue Community Framework of water as a human right
  • the thrill of beautiful design instead of a concrete block public drinking fountain.





Huge, fantastic fundraising news

In the midst of an economic downturn wasn’t the best timing to raise money in Calgary. But, when we started Water for Riley a barrel of oil sold for almost $100 and money flowed with it. Not any more!

We are, therefore, so very grateful to receive news today that one of our grant applications has succeeded. It means we are, suddenly, about half way to our fundraising goal. More importantly, it reinforces a specific message: We are trusted to connect Riley Park’s neighbours who had never collaborated before.

Thanks from the Water for Riley volunteers

The Calgary Foundation was the first money in and made us believe we could do this project. Others also see the value of this project to our wellbeing and community spirit. With one of the inspiring student drinking fountain designs in our Riley Park, we will attract visitors and perhaps temporary sculpture gardens as an economic boost to Kensington. Anything feels possible right now as we celebrate the news.

We’re very grateful to The Calgary Foundation, the first grantor to believe in our vision, and now to the Community Facilities Enhancement Program for supporting the efforts.

Where to from here?

The jury will soon select the student design to be built. With this new and significant donation we can ask a fabricator for the cost to build whichever unique design the jury selects from our student drinking fountain designs. Only then will we know how much more money has to be raised.

The letter from the Government of Alberta congratulated Water for Riley for … well, here’s the letter with the sentiment, which we appreciate.

award letter


Next item: pick the selected design;

After that: find out what it costs to build that design;

In conclusion: raise the balance to construct and install the fountain.

CELEBRATE (sometime soon) coming to Riley Park, a beautiful functional drinking fountain and an outstanding opening ceremony!! Stay tuned.

To participate in Water for Riley, email, or call 403 862 1923.

To donate through the Parks Foundation, click in the button and specify your contribution is for the Water for Riley.donate button

what makes urban parks natural, magical, healthful & healing

Calgary author Mark Milke lists the qualities that make for a magnificent urban park, and Riley Park has them all – except a drinking fountain. Mr. Milke’s suggestion for spending Calgary’s budget surplus: a new park with “a well-designed green space with water fountains, benches and flower beds; add in an assortment of oak, maple, pine and larch trees; do so on city-owned land in the west end…”.

Water for Riley agrees with Mr. Milke that the design fundamentals that create such a beautiful green space includes a drinking fountain.

Here’s excerpts from Mr. Milke’s column on the topic:

Use Surplus for a New Park
‘Calgary Herald’ – 2016-03-19

Take the long view and cre­ate a green space in the west end.
Mark Milke is a Cal­gary au­thor who likes green space.

In theory, of course, one could live without such parks. … City life in such locales is decidedly less pleasant.

But no one with any understanding of how and why urban public parks developed in North America — the late 19th century City Beautiful movement that sought to beautify cities for everyone (rich, poor and middle-class alike) — would wish for only sterile, concrete-and-blacktop metropolises. Such green-free urban settings grate and grind against the natural human desire for life-affirming green additions to city landscapes.
… green grass, flowing fountains, a rainbow’s variety of flowers in spring, benches on which to sit and tall trees to beautify the panorama …
In A Clearing in the Distance, his magnificent biography of the 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the main creator of Central Park, Mount Royal Park and others, author Witold Rybczynski writes of a later reaction to Mount Royal by one observer in 1906: “A public park that is convenient and beautiful, and that becomes more and more satisfying each year.”

Rybczynski… described his own wanderings … as “natural and magical; healthful and healing.” …

Think about a legacy that can last for centuries. …

© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.

Some of the student designers want to make the future of Riley Park include a beautiful, functional, accessible drinking fountain.

Water for Riley wants to make their legacy come to pass.

To participate in Water for Riley, email or call 403 862 1923.

To donate through the Parks Foundationdonate button, click in the button and specify you are supporting Water for Riley.

Design challenge: connecting community to curriculum

Let’s recap two reasons for a drinking fountain student design challenge. The obvious first reason is to obtain a drinking fountain near the Riley Park children’s playground and band stand.

The second important reason is to create a stronger bond among Riley Park’s neighbours. Water for Riley is a collaborative, community building project. Drinking fountain designs were accepted from ACAD and SAIT students, and comments on the designs from Hillhurst School students and Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association members. In the hundred+ years that those major Calgary institutions bordered Riley Park, they had never collaborated on a project – until now.

When the Globe and Mail, (Alberta Edition) logo published an article about the few educational institutions where “a community connection is built right into the curriculum” we were pleased to be a community-based connection built into ACAD and SAIT curricula.

The Globe and Mail wrote about this exciting new way that students learn about design, and how they apply that design to making life better for others, and the experience they gain from working in the community with real life clients. As we read it, we thought, hey, Calgary does that too.

Way to go ACAD and SAITWater for Riley is your proud collaborator, especially during SAIT’s centenary year.

To participate in Water for Riley activities, email, or call 403 862 1923.

To contribute to the drinking fountain,donate button click here ⇒

Donations made through the Parks Foundation; specify your donation is for Water for Riley.

Now, here’s the full text of the article:

Building a bet­ter ap­ple slicer
by Simona Chiose, 2015-12-24

McMaster engineering students take on real-world assignments – helping residents of a seniors’ centre – and learn some life lessons.

When engineering students dream about the global problems their skills will solve, designing a better apple slicer is unlikely to make the top of the list.

Yet, that is precisely one of the pedestrian issues that preoccupied hundreds of first-years in an engineering class at McMaster University in Hamilton. Their job seemed simple but, as they learned over the course of the term, it was as difficult as any larger project: to make life easier for the residents of a nursing home in the city.

“We sketched three different designs but they did not work, or they were too complicated,” said Zain ul-Abadin, one of the students in the class. After much trial and error, the group designed a mechanism that does not rely on the strength of aging hands, reversing the usual mechanism and pushing the apple into the blade.

“We tried it many, many times,” Mr. ul-Abadin said.

An increasing number of university programs offer experiential courses, but what makes McMaster’s unusual is that a community connection is built right into the curriculum. Taught by Robert Fleisig, a professor who also works as an engineer, the course has previously taken on the problems of one individual.

One year it was a burn victim with mobility issues, another year a senior with rheumatoid arthritis. For its fourth edition, the course ramped up and partnered with St. Peter’s Residence at Chedoke, a long-term care home. The approximately 200 residents at the home face multiple problems, from not having the muscle power to operate an apple cutter to wanting a door barrier that prevents other residents from wandering into their rooms but is unobtrusive.

“We never picked one specific intervention we wanted the students to work on. If there was an opportunity for innovation and ideas, we wanted to be able to support that,” said Janine Mills, the director of resident care. Ms. Mills visited the class multiple times and allowed small groups of students to meet some of the residents.

As the term progressed, there were many failures and disappointments. Some designs were rejected by residents during a first test run at the home.

“The designs may work from a tech and biology perspective, but users have preferences you don’t know about,” said Monica Salib, who took the course four years ago and is now one of the teaching assistants.

One resident, for example, rejected a barrier that would have to be placed in the room when not in use. “She said: ‘I don’t want anything in my room, my room already has a lot of stuff.’ So they had to think about storage,” Ms. Salib said.

By the end of the term, the student teams had come up with many solutions, from a transparent half-door to one made out of cardboard that can be folded easily.

“At first we wanted to make something cool,” said Patrick Frankiewicz, one of the students who had come up with a folding barrier. “We learned that we could attain something that was functional but not cool.”

The best eight teams presented their final designs at a Dragons’ Den event attended by professors from other departments, nursing home staff and students (the winning team came up with a foldable cane to help a resident get in and out of a car and walk to her wheelchair). And some teams could well see their ideas implemented at the home.

Sandi Mugford is still using a hand-held portable gas pump designed by the 2013 students. As a result of rheumatoid arthritis, Ms. Mugford could no longer use a self-serve gas station. The students’ invention gave her back that independence.

Since she received it, Ms. Mugford has retaped the pump a couple of times but the design was so ingeniously simple that “it’s nothing I can’t do,” she said.

She remains impressed with how much the students learn over one term.

“They’re engineering students; they’re not taking medicine, they have no prior knowledge of the human body except for their own. When you extrapolate that, that’s a huge learning curve,” Ms. Mugford said.

Ms. Salib agrees. Taking the class in the first year prepared her for the teamwork expected in upper years and for life as an engineer, where big problems can be attacked only in small steps.

“As a student, you want to solve everything, you want to feel that you accomplished the mission, but there is only one problem out of many that you can solve,” Ms. Salib said.

“You have to decide, ‘which can I solve?’ That’s the hardest problem.”

© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved


Design is systems thinking applied to problem-solving

The article below, reproduced from the 10 Mar 2016, Globe and Maillogorefreshed the tired volunteers of Water for Riley like cool water on a hot day. This article cleared away any doubt of the value in a student design challenge. One paragraph of the article in particular boosted the spirits of the Water for Riley volunteers. It is in bold in the middle of the article below.

The article echoes a long-ago discussion with the late Jack Layton, who said: It isn’t about the world of design; it’s about the design of the world. Water for Riley is about both.

What we can learn from the Massachusetts Drawing Act

by Todd Hirsch, Calgary-based chief economist of ATB Financial, author of The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada from Economic Decline

In 1869, Massachusetts was facing a serious problem. The state was falling behind economically because of trade with Europe and the importation of what were regarded as superior goods. Furniture, mechanical items, industrial machinery – the quality and design of the domestic goods just couldn’t compare with the imports. Massachusetts’ furniture was, well, ugly.

The solution? Legislators were petitioned by educators and business interests to introduce An Act Related to Free Instruction in Drawing. Known more commonly as the Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870, it mandated the instruction of creative and technical drawing in schools.

It was one of the first examples of art education – both creative and expressive art, as well as industrial art – to be introduced as part of the broader school curriculum. And while drawing may seem like a trivial concept, it helped revolutionize industrial design and manufacturing in the state. Eventually, it established Massachusetts as a leader in furniture and industrial design.

Drawing. Something as simple as teaching children how to draw, create, explore and invent with a pencil and paper did more to boost the economy of the region than the memorization of the multiplication table or the regurgitation of historical facts.

This isn’t to say that math, history and other subjects are unimportant for future economic growth. They are essential. But combining a mastery of math, social science and literature with drawing – something creative and visual – gave Massachusetts an economic edge.

Today, Canada faces the same problem Massachusetts did 146 years ago. We are falling behind the rest of the world in a number of areas. Some see cost as the problem: Canadian manufacturers simply can’t compete with Mexico, Bangladesh and other countries where labour costs are lower. Some see tariff barriers on imports as the solution. Some call for tax credits and other financial incentives.

While there may be a time and place for government actions, perhaps the Massachusetts Drawing Act provides some guidance for what we really need.

Some of our students might well benefit from drawing lessons. But more broadly, all students could benefit from design lessons. We need the Design Act of 2017, an intentional effort to instill a design emphasis into our education systems.

Good design is really just applying systematic thinking to problem-solving. Usually we think of design in the visual industries: interior design, graphic design, clothing design. These are important industries in Canada, but good design mentality can be applied to all of our major industries.

How can we design systems to extract natural resources in a way that is more efficient and less harmful to the environment? How can Canadian manufacturers design better and more visually appealing consumer goods? How can Canadian architects lead the world in designing more efficient and aesthetically pleasing buildings, pushing the edges of architecture rather than following the Dutch, Danish and Spanish designers a decade or two later?

None of these problems are solved with import tariffs or tax credits. All of them can be solved with good design, but that requires a shift in the way we teach and train our students.

From an early age, children need to have a designer’s mentality infused into the curriculum. This doesn’t mean less math, science or social studies – just the opposite. It means teaching these subjects in a way that encourages the student to solve problems. That’s what good design does.

The failing Massachusetts economy wasn’t solved with import tariffs, tax credits or some wild Buy America scheme. It was solved when educators gave children pencils and paper, and said, “Draw something, create something, design something.”

But the economic success that the Drawing Act brought to the state was not immediate – it took a decade or more to see results. It’s a good lesson – there are no quick fixes to curing our economic woes. It may take some time, but infusing design into our education systems will give our economy an edge. It can become Canada’s special sauce.


Thanks for this heartening article, Mr. Hirsch.

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To participate in Water for Riley, email or call 403 862 1923. To donate through the Parks Foundation, click the button. Specify your donation is for Water for Riley. Tax Receipts are issued.

For the first time: all 21 fountain designs exhibited

this is my city logoANNOUNCING THIS IS MY CITY FESTIVAL 2016 kick off Thursday, April 7, continuing to April 24

Water for Riley is so proud to be a PARTNER PROJECT  @  THIS IS MY CITY FESTIVAL

Water for Riley Design Exhibit

A true community project, inspired by the need for access to drinking water for all Riley Park visitors, this exhibit showcases 21 innovative and playful designs from students of ACAD and SAIT for a much-needed, new public water fountain for Riley Park.

In May, these designs will be vetted – first by a community-based jury, then IBI Group and the City of Calgary – before one design is chosen for further development and construction near the children’s playground in Riley Park.

See all the 21 designs together for the first time!

Share your comments, impressions and your own stories of Calgary’s wonderful Riley Park.

@ Blank Page Studio April 7 – 24

Collaborators: Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Association, area businesses, local individuals, students and staff of Hillhurst School, faculty and students of ACAD and SAIT, This Is My City, and The Calgary Foundation.

And you: help make the fountain a reality for Riley Park, call 403 862 1923 or email  to participate, and click here to donate through the Parks Foundation. Specify your donation is for Water for Riley.

donate button

Bring on SAIT

Thanks ACAD, and 3D Object Design course instructor, Kerry Harmer, and students; we have your 19 amazing designs.

Now, we await the designs of the two SAIT teams who were assigned designing a drinking fountain for Riley Park as their Capstone Project. We expect those two designs on March 25th.

Team Capstone event final

Read the announcement of the first time all 21 designs are exhibited.

Email to volunteer with Water for Riley, or call 403 862 1923. Help build whichever outstanding student design the jury selects. Riley Park is our community park, and good design improves quality of life, creates community, and boosts the economy.

To donate through the Parks Foundation, click the button and specify your donation is for Water for Riley:

donate button


Engagement and Interaction: two best interim outcomes of water for riley

What are the most fun, interesting aspects of Water for Riley’s project plan so far? Two things: engagement and interaction. The whole project was designed to 1. engage the community, especially students, and 2. be interactive. However; plans have a tendency to stray from their intentions. How has the plan worked? Happily, in this case, the plan exceeded all aspirations.

ACAD students enthusiastically participated in the Water for Riley challenge to submit their designs for the drinking fountain. The 19 designs were then framed as posters and displayed in Hillhurst School and the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association (HSCA) building for two weeks each. There are plans for exhibitions in more venues around the community.

The level of engagement and interaction with the poster exhibit has been overwhelming.

Hillhurst School engagement

Hillhurst School students had first viewing of the poster exhibit. School Vice Principal, Elan, arrange for the display in the school hallway, where students passed it several times a day.

Each teacher could use the Water for Riley project and the design posters for grade appropriate learning. As an example of how the teachers engaged the elementary school students, grade six used the exhibit for the critique method of observation and testing opinions:

Grade 6 assignment to use methodology for critique of one design
Grade 6 assignment to use methodology for critique of one design
Grade six students picked a design poster to observe and answer the questions assigned
Grade six students picked a design poster to observe and answer the questions assigned
what the students liked
what the students liked in the designs
what students would liked to have seen in the designs
what students would liked to have seen in the designs
Hillhurst School student comments
Hillhurst School student comments and drinking fountain designs

Hillhurst School student Liam, and his mother Leslie, had a great discussion about the designs and what it would mean to have a drinking fountain in Riley Park.

Liam & Leslie discuss posters
Liam & Leslie discuss posters

Liam recalled the teacher brought the posters to the classroom where students passed them around and discussed them. “It was awesome, especially the animal bowls because dogs need to drink, and people take their dogs to Riley Park,” he said. Although Liam admitted to having one favourite design, if his idea were built it would be “a fountain like a pea shooter.”

Leslie added that when Water for Riley first came to her attention, her reaction was: you mean, there isn’t a drinking fountain there now? “Parks should have drinking fountains,” she said.

Community engagement is ongoing

Next, the exhibit moved to the HSCA where it hung on the wall outside the gym. Everyone, from children in day care to youths in programs, shoppers at the Farmers’ Market, and seniors playing cards, could view the posters .

Community members Fong and her sons Kai and Bo, went to the exhibit at HSCA and carefully considered each design. They thought the drinking fountain was a good idea. “A beautiful design will make Riley Park look nice so more people will visit,” said Bo.

And, Fong said, it was very cool that ordinary people in the neighbourhood took on the task of Water for Riley as volunteers. “Hillhurst Sunnyside is really open to those kinds of ideas and to saying ‘yes’ to ideas.”

But – sometimes the fountain would get dirty and perhaps people would do bad stuff to it. It was important, Kai and Bo decided, to get everyone to take ownership of Riley Park so bad stuff didn’t happen.

Kai and Bo agreed on steps they could take. “Clean it if it’s dirty. We can all do our share to take care of it. If we see someone doing bad stuff, tell them to stop. Call 911 for emergencies.”

Fong, Bo, and Kai discuss the posters
Fong, Bo, and Kai discuss the posters

Soon, they’d agreed on their favourite design, although they each preferred it in different colours.

What else is cool about Water for Riley?

Think about it. Without Water for Riley, the HSCA might have requested the City install a drinking fountain in Riley Park. If the City agreed to the request, Riley Park would have gotten a concrete block fountain of one nozzle, without regard to users’ disabilities, height differences, artistic merit to attract visitors, canine needs, or the other criteria the students considered in their thoughtful comments and designs. Instead, Riley Park will get a water feature that’s beautiful and functional.

To get involved with Water for Riley, call 403 862 1923 or email us. and please donate to our beautiful drinking fountain, whichever design it will be. Click the button to donate through the Parks Foundation, and specify your donation is for Water for Riley.

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Press release #1: Water for Riley gets noticed

Press Release 1 WaterforRiley

Press Release 1 WaterforRiley
Press release #1 page 1
PR 1 page 2
Press release #1, page 2

Be part of the excitement. Volunteer to make Water for Riley a reality. Call 403 862 1923 or donate buttonemail Water for Riley. Click the button to donate through the Parks Foundation. Specify you are donating in support of the Water for Riley project.

ACAD student designs exhibited Feb 8-19, 2016

You’re invited to view the ACAD students’ submissions to the Riley Park public drinking fountain challenge. Tomorrow afternoon the posters are available for public viewing.

The posters hung for the past two weeks in Hillhurst Elementary School, where students and teachers used the exhibit in many learning modules. Their comments show how the exhibit engaged their imaginations about the drinking fountain’s role in the park, the natural environment, and the quality of the park users’ experience.

Not only does the public exhibit showcase ACAD student talent, it also fosters the relationship between the community, the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association and ACAD.

Soon, the SAIT students’ designs will also be available. Another valuable relationship fostered. These are the cumulative impacts of the project.

This exhibit is a sneak preview of the designs that not even the jury has yet seen. Come, see the designs, leave comments, and make a donation donate buttonthrough the Parks Foundation. Click the button and specify your donation is in support of the Water for Riley project.

Your invitation:

exhibit open for viewing Feb 8