“Once you start noticing the fine texture of the built environment — the details, the spaces and edges, how they make you feel, what kinds of activities they encourage or discourage — it’s impossible to stop.” David Roberts, vox

$15 & up/person
Experiential 2-3 Hours Suitable for ages 14 and up

Do you feel like you belong here?

Experience first-hand the blurry boundaries between public and private space as we walk over, under, and through some of Ottawa's most prominent landmarks. See your city from a new perspective – literally and figuratively – from places you’ve never noticed before or have walked by a hundred times. As we attempt to access these places and spaces – some of which are publicly-accessible, some that are behind nondescript doors, and some that are hidden in plain sight – what will we come across? Locked doors and security guards? Comfy seating and free wi-fi? An empty dead space or a lively gathering place? We’ll get a chance to ask ourselves: Do we feel like we are allowed to be here? To do what and for how long? Who gets to set and enforce the rules? What is it about the design that makes us feel comfortable or unwelcome? And would other people of different ages and cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds feel the same way? The tour will take between 2 and 3 hours, depending on how quickly we walk and whether or not we decide to enjoy post-walk refreshments at a ‘pseudo-public’ cafe with a killer view! There will be lots of opportunities for washroom breaks or to sit and rest. The route is wheelchair accessible, but as we will be going in and out of many different buildings, we cannot guarantee that all washrooms will be accessible or that all elevators will be operational.

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Scheduled tour
Happens monthly.
  • Printed souvenir postcard
  • Maximum of 25 people on tour
Private tour
Minimum booking: party of 3 people. Happens if you request.
  • Tour content is tweaked on the spot to cover your interests
  • Printed souvenir postcard
  • Maximum of 8 people on tour
  • Follow-up additional resources by email
Customized tour
Minimum booking: 1 person (or more). Happens if you request.
  • Pre-tour chat with your guide to discuss your interests in topic (optional)
  • Content customized to your interests
  • Printed souvenir postcard
  • Your group only on tour
  • Follow-up additional resources by email

Request a private or customized (de)tour

May 2022
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Stops along the way (preview):

We will explore a range of ‘pseudo-public spaces’, from hotel lobbies and shopping centres to offices and cultural institutions.

Start - 101 Lyon St. North (Lobby of Delta Hotel Ottawa City Centre)

We'll being in a pseudo-public space that sends mixed signals on whether or not you belong there.

Mid-point - 150 Elgin St. (Performance Court)

We'll discover two of the most interesting ‘public’ spaces in Ottawa that you didn't even know you had to access to.

End - 380 Sussex Dr. (National Gallery of Canada)

We'll end our walk at the unlikeliest place to grab a coffee and talk about the spaces and places where we felt like we belong, and where we felt the most unwelcome.

James Chan

Your tour guide
James Chan is an urbanism enthusiast with a particular appreciation for thoughtfully-designed architecture, infrastructure, and the public realm. He has worked with community organizations in the areas of parks, complete streets, and civic participation. In 2016, he co-led a popular Jane's Walk titled "Why is there a parking lot here?!?!", written in all caps.
“What struck me the most about this tour is how shockingly fun it was to not know where we'll be heading next: will we be discovering another hidden terrace, seeing an incredible view of the city, or entering a mystery corridor that was hiding in plain sight? Amazing tour, more fun than a scavenger hunt but with better concepts!”
J. N.
Emailed feedback, August 2017
“James really knows his stuff, and has a deep knowledge of urbanism. An extraordinary adventure, I had no idea some of these places even exist in town.”
John H.
Tripadvisor review, August 2017

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