Panel Discussion:
Re:Publics Envisioning the Future of Public Space

COVID-19 has already exacerbated urban inequalities challenging all facets of public spaces: safety, health, access, and rights. This panel addressed what inclusive public space means, to whom, and how equity plays out in the planning and design of public spaces, be it urban or suburban, physical or digital. The panelists provided insight through their practices to address imperative issues around (re)adapting public spaces towards an inclusive and equitable COVID recovery. The topics of focus include land-based learning, placemaking and public art, community engagement, and the impact of digitalization.

Lori Endes

Special Projects and Lab Coordinator Centre for Arts, Design and Information Technology, George Brown

Lori Endes is a multi-disciplinary designer and educator with a long history in the arts and film industries. She is faculty at the School of Design at George Brown College and leads special projects that provide work integrated learning experiences for students. Recently Endes co-directed and produced a full length award winning documentary called This is Ballet in collaboration with Canada's Ballet Jorgen. Endes is the Chair of the Board of Directors for Kaeja Dance. She holds a Masters in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy and has over 30 years experience in the world of dance as both a performer and a designer.

Lori Endes
Karla Avi. Birch_headshot.jpg

Mary W. Rowe
Mary W. Rowe
President & CEO, Canadian Urban Institute

Mary Rowe is a leading urban advocate and civil society leader who has worked in cities across Canada and the United States. She comes to the Canadian Urban Institute with several years of experience as an urban advocate and community leader, including serving as Executive Vice President of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MASNYC), one of America’s oldest civic advocacy organizations focused on the built environment. A mid-career fellowship with the US-based blue moon fund led Rowe to New Orleans, where she worked with national philanthropy, governments, and local communities to support rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Prior to this, she was President of the Canadian platform Ideas That Matter, a convening and publishing program based on the work of renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs.
Rowe has been a frequent contributor to national and international city-building programs, including UN Habitat and the World Urban Forum. She brings an extensive international network of practitioners from government, industry, community activism, and city-building professions to help strengthen the Canadian Urban Institute under her leadership.


Karla Avis-Birch

Chief Planning Officer, Metrolinx

Karla Avis-Birch

Karla Avis-Birch guides the planning and benefits of the regional transportation network and supports practical advancement of the Regional Transportation Plan and evidence-based decision making in the delivery of transit projects. She is deeply passionate about forging end-to-end transit solutions from vision to reality, region-wide, tomorrow, and for decades to come.


Throughout her career, Avis-Birch has overseen the construction and completion of countless instrumental infrastructural pieces and has accelerated the delivery of service. In her previous role as Vice President of GO Stations Capital Delivery, she established Metrolinx’s first Project Controls & Design Standards Office, partnered with Infrastructure Ontario on the procurement of P3 projects, and was accountable for the delivery of transformational GO Expansion programs.


Avis-Birch is a Civil Engineering graduate from Ryerson University. Her proven record of excellence garnered her a feature in the Women of Influence “Meet and Role Model” article and a spot amongst the 2020 Women in Infrastructure Network (WIN) Outstanding Leaders short list. She also served as the 2017 and 2018 President of the Women in Transportation Seminars (WTS) Toronto Area Chapter. She has been federally appointed by Infrastructure Canada to serve on the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) Board of Directors to oversee the construction of the Gordie Howe bridge.

Zahra Ebrahim

Zahra Ebrahim

Designer, Strategist, Educator, CEO and Co-founder of Monumental

Adjunct Professor, School of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Zahra Ebrahim is a public interest designer and strategist, focused on deep, community-led approaches to policy, infrastructure, and service design. She is an established bridge builder across grassroots and institutional spaces, and is a leading practitioner in reforming institutions to be more human-centred. She serves as an Executive Advisor to Deloitte on Cities and Design, and as a senior advisor to political and public interest initiatives across the country. Zahra is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Geography and Planning. She has been named Next City’s Vanguard “40 under 40 Civic Leader,” Ascend Canada’s Mentor of the Year, one of “Tomorrow’s Titans” in Toronto

Life, and one of WXN’s “Top 100 Women in Canadian Business.”

Christine Leu
Christine Leu
Artist, Educator, Architect and Co- founder of LeuWebb Projects
Sessional Instructor, Department of Architecture Science and School of Interior Design, X University (formerly Ryerson University) 

Christine Leu is an architect, artist, and educator. She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Master of Architecture from the University of Waterloo. Since 2009, Leu has been teaching architecture and interior design at X University (formerly Ryerson University). She is a licensed architect and holds a certificate of practice with the Ontario Association of Architects. Throughout her career, she has worked for notable firms in Toronto, New York City, and London, England. 

Alongside partner Alan Webb, she co-founded LeuWebb Projects, a multi-disciplinary arts and curation practice. LeuWebb uses space, light, sound, and texture to activate and define public space. With each piece, Leu and Webb summon their shared artistic and architectural expertise in exploring how a site’s qualities can serve as metaphors for storytelling and critical discourse. They fuse this knowledge with their core interests: to imagine how art and design can tangibly evoke past, current, and future narratives for a richer experience of place. Since 2011, they have created more than 20 site-specific artworks across the world. 

Gregg Lintern
Gregg Lintern
Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, City of Toronto

As Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, Gregg Lintern is committed to leading the City Planning Division and making Toronto more liveable, inclusive and adapted for all people. His priorities include meaningfully responding to the housing affordability challenge, growing the transit network across the entire City, proactively planning complete and well-designed communities to support population and employment growth, integrating climate adaptation, and modernizing planning services. In his over 37 years in municipal planning across the breadth of the City, Lintern has led great multidisciplinary teams achieving housing policy transformation, neighbourhood scale redevelopment, new planning frameworks and transit facilities, high profile redevelopment projects, heritage planning and public realm redesign. Lintern believes planning is about imagining the city you aspire it to be for everyone and then setting out to help nurture and create it so that it becomes a better, more equitable place for future generations.    

Howard Tam headshot_edited.jpg
Howard Tam
Howard Tam
Strategic Designer, Urban Planner, Educator, CEO and Founder
ThinkFresh Group

Howard Tam is the founder of ThinkFresh Group, a city building and strategic design consultancy based in Toronto responsible for such projects as the Dragon Centre Stories Commemoration Project and the Honest Ed’s Alley Micro-Retail Market. He has worked with government and private sector clients in Canada to facilitate and design city building strategies that foster trust, enable civic potential and build sustainable legacies. He is currently working with the City of Toronto to develop promotional strategies for street art as well as designing experiences for ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art. Howard has lectured about cities and design at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Prior to founding the ThinkFresh Group, he worked as a Policy Advisor and Business Analyst with the Government of Ontario. Howard is also the founder of tours that offers food tours in and around Scarborough’s amazingly diverse food scene – described by some as the “best ethnic food suburb” in the world.