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'Canalscape Exhibition' unveils bold plans for Valley's canal system

November 04, 2009

As builders, designers and architects from around the world arrive in Phoenix for the 2009 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, the Arizona State University Art Museum is unveiling a radical rethinking of the Valley's canal system. The Sonoran Desert metropolis, better known for freeways and mountain ranges, is also home to 181 miles of canals.

Beginning Nov. 9, visitors to the ASU Art Museum in Tempe can discover a host of ideas intended to transform underutilized pathways alongside the ribbons of water stretching across the city. The "Canalscape Exhibition" showcases ideas from students and professionals to create park space, community gardens, bike paths, public art and prime spots for mixed-use development including housing, shops, caf├ęs and other businesses.

Canalscape is a project developed by the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It focuses on creating vital urban hubs where canals meet major streets throughout the Phoenix metropolitan region. Each hub will be unique, responding to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods, while forming part of a larger network along the canals that adds to metro Phoenix's quality of life. The goal is to transform canals into amenities, making Phoenix a more interesting and sustainable city, according to Nan Ellin, associate professor and planning program director in the school.

Phoenix's vast network of canals, initially constructed by American Indians almost two millennia ago, attracted the first settlers to the area and inspired the name Phoenix. These canals are the Valley's lifeline, supporting agriculture and providing drinking water.

"Canalscape builds on this legacy by envisioning the canals as shady linear parks, corridors for biking and running, vital urban hubs and an opportunity for alternative-energy generation," Ellin says.

The "Canalscape Exhibition" is at the ASU Art Museum from Nov. 9-Dec. 1, with an opening event on Nov. 10 from 6-8 p.m. The ASU Art Museum is located in the Nelson Fine Arts Center, Tempe campus, on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street. For hours and additional information, visit For more information about Canalscape, visit or contact Ellin at (480) 965-6160,