New Handbook Sets a Vision for the Evolution of Outdoor Dining in Ottawa

August 12, 2021

Researchers at Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism have developed a design handbook that proposes new ways to enjoy safe outdoor dining in Ottawa during and after pandemic restrictions. 


Titled Dinner in the Street: Dining Safely and Socially in the Pandemic City and Beyond, the project aims to help the restaurant industry and enhance public life while maintaining physical distancing for public health. It also looks for opportunities for local food production and serving the underserved.


“Dinner in the Street is located at the intersection of social health, physical health, and economic health, and addresses ways in which providing public venues for dining can serve all three of these goals,” the handbook authors write. 


“In a time of global pandemic, economic urgency and social malaise, Dinner in the Street asks this central question: ‘Can challenges of public health and spatial justice be served, literally, through dinners in the public realm?'”


The illustrated 28-page handbook proposes closing select streets to traffic and offers design concepts for five Ottawa neighbourhoods. It also contains ideas for structures, physical distancing strategies, zoning changes, and themes that reinforce neighbourhood identity. 


The research was funded by the MITACS Accelerate Grant Program, which opened a special category for COVID-19-related research last year. The researchers were recent Master of Architecture graduates Shelby Hagerman and Rehab Salama, working under the direction of Jill Stoner, former director of Carleton’s Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism. 


See the full list of project credits below.

The researchers studied international precedents for outdoor communal dining, including the famous street dinners in Siena, Italy, that celebrate the annual Palio horse race. They also consulted Ottawa community leaders and restaurant owners to develop the following proposals:

1. Argyle Avenue in Centretown has a concentration of social and immigration services, making it an ideal street for weekly lunches and dinners that serve the underserved. Colourful umbrellas, decorated with patterns inspired by flags of the world and Canada’s provinces and territories, protect diners from inclement weather. 

2. Daly Avenue in Sandy Hill is home to the Ottawa Art Gallery and three fine-dining restaurants, making it an ideal street for the philanthropic community to gather for benefit dinners. 

3. George Street and York Street in the ByWard Market could be permanently closed to traffic and host large numbers of people dining out in a festive atmosphere. Repaving with patterns and introducing mobile trees in large planters will help reinforce distances between tables. 

4. The cul-de-sacs off Preston Street in Little Italy could reduce the width of their traffic lane and develop community gardens for a farm-to-table experience. Meals can be delivered from Preston Street restaurants. 

5. One block of Hazel Street in Old Ottawa East could be planted as a wheat field, softening the edge of a large nearby housing development. Small mowed circles provide an area for physically-distanced tables for solo diners. 

Finally, the authors propose a “Winter Street” of cabins and tents that can be set up outside restaurants. They come in three sizes: Date Cabins for two people; Social Cabins for three-to-four people; and Family Cabins for five-to-eight people. 

They also introduce playful components into the dining experience. These include robotic server birds that deliver food to tables in specially engineered baskets and whimsical companions, such as mannequins and plush bears that establish physical distancing without leaving conspicuously empty seats.

The inspiration for the project stems from the Azrieli School’s annual “Dinner in the Street” in the Architecture Building held to celebrate the thesis work of Master of Architecture students. (Image below)

The research is based on the following: 

-Many people will continue to work from home, relieving city streets of much daily traffic;  

-Even after herd immunity, people will be inclined to maintain greater physical distances between themselves and others; 

-This period of crisis will engender a more lasting spirit of collaboration between industry, academic, and policy sectors. 

“The goal of Dinner in the Street is to use our resilience during the crisis of 2020-2021 to advocate for more long-term policies that will enhance the post-pandemic city,” say the authors.



Jill Stoner, Project Lead, Professor, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism


Shelby Hagerman, Student Intern, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism


Rehab Salama, Student Intern, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism


Rod Lahey, Project Sponsor, Rod Lahey Architects


Hugh Gorman, Project Sponsor, Colonnade Bridgeport Developers


Benjamin Gianni, Advisor, Associate Professor, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism


IIon Tyon, Community Voice, Moscow Tea Room, Ottawa


Nathalie Carrier, Community Voice, Executive Director, Quartier Vanier BIA


Lori Mellor, Community Voice, Executive Director Preston Street BIA


John Cardish, Developer and Vice President, EQ Homes, Ottawa


Zachary Dayler, Community Voice, Executive Director of Ottawa Markets


Laureen DiNardo, City of Ottawa Coordinator, Public Realm Permits and Agreements


Gabrielle Argent, Illustration & Graphic Design, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism


Steve MacLeod, Illustration & Graphic Design, Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism


Sarah Stoner-Duncan, Illustration & Graphic Design