Competition Overview




Welcome To Raincouver

Vancouver is a rainy city. Located in a coastal rain forest region, the city sees over 160 rainy days a year, a condition that results in approximately 1,150mm of precipitation annually – with much of it falling between October and March.

Rainy Public Spaces

While Vancouver has many excellent public spaces, most of these spaces are ill-equipped to support gathering and other activities in the rain. Public life in the city is challenged by the weather. Utilization of public spaces drops, and otherwise vibrant places have reduced opportunities for lingering and enjoyment. The umbrella overhead becomes a shield against the elements, and public life takes on an accelerated pace as people hurry to get out of the rain.

Rain parade
Kids playing in the rain

The Climate Change Factor: things will get more extreme

Weather conditions are expected to intensify. According to the City of Vancouver, residents can expect to see “more extreme rainfall events in winter [with] an increase of 33% very wet days and 63% extremely wet days.” In addition “‘1 in 20 year storm events’ are expected to increase by 36%.” Our summers are going to get dryer and our winters wetter. Public space infrastructure, use, design and location will need to respond and adapt to these changes.

How can we better treat rain as a resource?

Rain is an integral part of the local hydrologic (water) cycle. Public spaces can help support the environment by reducing stormwater runoff and harvesting rain for various uses. This will be especially important, as Vancouver will experience more extreme weather events in the future. Examples include bioswales and rain gardens on streets, or rain-friendly elements that can be integrated with other green streets infrastructure.

Rain as a resource

Our public spaces – and the people of the city - deserve to thrive in the rain.
That’s where you come in!




Rain water collecting

Life Between Umbrellas: Public Space in a Rainy City

Life Between Umbrellas is an ideas, design and pop-up activation competition that seeks to improve public space and public life during Vancouver’s rainy months. The competition aims to respond to the many challenges and opportunities associated with the wet-weather months by encouraging the generation of ideas for rain-friendly public spaces.

By rain-friendly, we mean public spaces that, among other things, are:

  • Rich in public life - Supporting and enhancing a broad array of opportunities and activities during the wet weather, including public gathering, social, cultural, and democratic activities, and in general, vibrant, well-utilized public spaces
  • Sustainable - Recognizing rain as a resource; responding to the challenges of storm-water and infrastructure loading; providing attention to green design, habitat, landscape, and hydrological systems, with a view to environmental sustainability
  • Good for the economy – Seeing rain as an opportunity to support the local economy and entrepreneurship
  • Health-promoting and equitable – Responding to challenges posed by social isolation and inequitable access to rain-protected space; ensuring social well-being during seasons where physical and mental health can be affected by the weather
Woman protected by umbrella

You can get a full sense of how we define “rain-friendly” by reviewing the community-generated principles for rain-friendly public spaces.




Rain friendly ideas

Life Between Umbrellas will generate new ideas and new thinking about how we can make our public spaces more rain-friendly.

The goals of Life Between Umbrellas are to improve the opportunities for public life during the rainy months, respond to the challenges that are posed by wet weather, harness rain as a resource, and to encourage a culture of fun, friendly, wet weather activities for residents, workers and visitors to Vancouver.


You can get a full sense of how we define “rain-friendly” by reviewing the community-generated principles for rain-friendly public spaces.




Cycling in the rain
The Life Between Umbrellas competition will have three streams:

  • The Place: An idea to make a new or existing public space (such as a plaza, street, sidewalk, laneway, parklet, or park) rain-friendly;
  • The Intervention: A rain-friendly design feature, element, or seasonal structure; a design that can serve to enhance an existing public space;
  • The Celebration: A rain-friendly pop-up public space activation (e.g. an event or interactive installation) that will help build a more positive culture of rain-friendly activity, fostering social connections in the rainy months. (Must be delivered in fall 2019.)

Multiple prizes will be awarded in each stream. Stream 1 includes prizes for children and youth 18 and under, and Stream 2 includes a potential design-build opportunity after the competition closes. Requirements associated with each stream are outlined in the Design Brief.

Winners will be selected through a combination of the following:

Independent Jury – A jury comprised of various subject matter experts will assist with (a) short-listing and (b) selecting winning entries in streams (1) and (2).
People’s Choice – People’s Choice voting will take place in person at various locations around the city to select winning entries in stream (1).
VIVA/VPSN Selection Committee – will be used to select entries in stream (3). Winners in this stream will be chosen through a blind-evaluation process by a committee comprised of City of Vancouver staff, in consultation with the Vancouver Public Space Network. This committee will also assess entries in stream (2) for possible further design-build opportunities.

Throughout the competition there will also be an array of supplemental events and activities taking place during the competition period, including speaking events, public space activations, and other fun stuff.

Events and activities Life Between Umbrellas

A place, an intervention, a celebration…what inspires you to improve public space in the rain?




Cycling in the rain

The competition is open to all – young and old, resident and non-resident, professional or “lay” designer - anyone interested in making public space more rain-friendly. While training in a field such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning, etc. may be helpful, professional affiliation is not required for this competition. Participants can enter individually or collaboratively in teams.

Restrictions: The competition is not open to City of Vancouver elected officials or employees, or VPSN Board of Directors or Project Leads.






Rain as a resource

Winners in the three streams will be chosen by a mix of jury selection, people’s choice voting, and steering committee review – as follows:

Stream 1 – Jury Selection + People’s Choice (two prizes each). Additional prizes (Jury and People’s Choice) for Youth Stream

Stream 2 – Jury Selection

Stream 3 – Steering Committee Review

In general, entries will be evaluated based on the quality of the proposal (including the completeness of their entry), and, the degree to which the proposal responds to the competition goals, and the Principles for Rain-friendly Principles.

However, entrants should be sure to review the Design Brief for additional specific evaluation criteria and submission requirements associated with each stream.

Rain friendly principles

Prizes & Evaluation




The following are the key dates associated with the design competition.


Activity Timing (week of)
Launch Event Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Application/Registration February 27-April 29
Supplemental Event(s): What’s Your Idea? To be announced
Public Talk / Speaker event To be announced
Submissions deadline 5:00pm PST; April 29, 2019
People’s Choice Voting Events Early to Mid-May
Supplemental Event(s) Promote the Vote!* To be announced
Winners Showcase Late May

Additional information on supplemental events will be posted on this website as they become available.