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Denver-based Civitas Showcases Urban Design through Film

Civitas collaborated with Calgary-based MEDIAPOP on the films.

Urban design and landscape architecture standout Civitas has released two short films that explore the multi-layered and collaborative design process behind its work.

The first film, titled St. Patrick's Island Park, Calgary, provides candid interviews with key design team members on the recently opened 31-acre urban oasis designed by Civitas with W Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Civitas received the 2015 President's Award of Excellence for Design from ASLA Colorado, as well as honors from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and AIA New York for its design of the $20 million St. Patrick's Island Park that's drawing crowds to the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

A second film, Bike Roll, provides an off-the-cuff bicycle tour of the revitalized island delivered by Civitas Founding Principal Mark Johnson.

The Denver-based urban design and landscape architecture firm's hallmark is building community through shared experience of the natural world, as demonstrated in projects like San Diego's North Embarcadero waterfront and the Museum Park expansion at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

"Cohesive open space systems establish the shared meaning and communal experiences that people enjoy and remember," Johnson says. "In our hyper-connected digital world, creating places that matter to people because they mean something is a powerful force."

For ilana Fowler, Civitas' director of marketing and business development, it was the idea of shared experience that inspired the shift to film.

"Film is a storyteller's medium that connects diverse audiences and engages people on an emotional level -- and it enables us to reveal the complex layers of art, science, culture and historical context that go into the marking of great public spaces," says Fowler, who created the films with Calgary videographer MEDIAPOP. "We want people to see themselves in our projects, to show them something about creating this space and, hopefully, to inspire them to visit, make their own discoveries and share it with friends."

At the same time, the films also reveal the "offbeat and quirky" personality of Civitas as a firm told through "heartfelt stories about our beliefs and philosophy and how those values continue to inform our design of public spaces," says Fowler, who has a background in film and television.

With a core purpose of creating healthier cities, Civitas is an idea-based practice of urban designers, architects and landscape architects engaged in strategic planning for urban change and project design for built works. The 31-year-old consultancy and design studio advices on a range of strategies for re-imagining urban life and places.

Civitas has completed more than 100 projects that are helping metro Denver to evolve into model for the best in urban living. Projects include reclaiming the old airport to create the Stapleton neighborhood, reinventing a defunct shopping mall as the walkable Belmar neighborhood in Lakewood and designing a coming transit-oriented community near DIA, Aviation Station.

The firm's name is defined as "a body of people constituting a politically organized community, a state, especially a city-state."

Read more articles by Margaret Jackson.

Margaret is a veteran Denver real estate reporter and can be contacted here.
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