The School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) was established in 1971 as the Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS). It was originally intended to be Alberta’s professional architecture school. However, in response to the birth of the environmental movement and the zeitgeist of the late 1960s which questioned the orthodoxy of siloed professional disciplines, the vision was expanded and the Faculty was founded on a radical ideological premise of interdisciplinary cross-scalar environmental design which gave the faculty its name and shaped its approach to teaching and research.
The concept of environmental design emerged in the late 1960s as a way of uniting design disciplines across a range of scales: from product design through building, city and landscape design. By understanding the multiplicity of contexts that inform the complex challenges facing today’s designers, such as built, urban, social, cultural, the Faculty’s founding principles draw from a commitment to interdisciplinarity, bringing together a wide range of experts to develop comprehensive design solutions that will improve the built environment without sacrificing the natural world.
Conceived as a graduate-level design unit, the Master of Environmental Design (MEDes) degree was offered in three fields of study (architecture, planning and environmental science) under founding dean William T. Perks, who served from 1971 to 1981.
For 25 years, the programs evolved to meet community needs. In 1981, a fourth field of study (industrial design) was added to the MEDes program, further enriching interdisciplinary inquiry. By 1998, the faculty successfully introduced the first environmental design doctoral program in Canada (PhD) and established professional degree designations for the Master of Architecture and Master of Planning to complement the original MEDes. In 2003, Urban Design was added as a field of study under MEDes — another innovative first for the faculty.
In 2007, the faculty underwent another major transition. The MEDes was redesigned as a post-professional research degree to accompany the PhD, and professional degree programs were streamlined to focus on the Master of Architecture and the Master of Planning. In 2015, the faculty introduced a new professional program, the Master of Landscape Architecture, and admitted the first students into the program.
In 2019, wth the generous support of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and the City of Calgary, the School opened the City Building Design Lab (CBDLab), a satellite storefront across the street from Calgary's City Hall. The 25,000 square-foot facility brings together graduate students, academics,building industry professionals, municipal policy makers, and the public to explore new directions in city building. CBDLab is located in the Castell Building, former home of the Central Public Library.
In April 2019 the school changed its name from the Faculty of Environmental Design to the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.
Over its 50-year history, the school has grown, evolved, reinvented itself and made its mark locally, provincially and internationally through the ground-breaking and creative work of students, faculty, and graduates. Today, SAPL offers professional degrees in architecture, planning, and landscape architecture, post-professional research degrees at the masters and doctoral levels, and a stream of undergraduate preparatory courses.
Under Dean John L. Brown, the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape retains its interdisciplinary roots while embracing the dynamic potential of entrepreneurial design thinking and social innovation. We are committed to transforming the future of professional practice and to helping create cities that are sustainable, resilient, equitable, healthy, and vibrant.