Block Week Program
Our program of one-week intensive electives courses allows you to tailor your education to your interests.
Block week courses allow students to work with prominent practitioners and educators, architects, planners and landscape architects, from around the world in an intensive study. These block courses are a vital and essential aspect of the professional graduate programs. The one-week block course was pioneered by our faculty several decades ago, and they continue to provide a special opportunity for intensive courses (typically electives).
Global leaders in design supplement the learning experience through one-day, one-week and semester-long terms. Students have had the opportunity to work directly with guests such as Marc Fornes (THEVERYMANY), Koen van Velsen, Chris Sharples (SHoP Architects) and Dr. Jane Rendall from the Barlett School of Architecture.
Winter Block Week 2023
Named Block Weeks
- Gillmor Theory Seminar – Wil Marquez, Detroit: Focus on working with a Hispanic community in Detroit
- Taylor Seminar – Kory Bieg, University of Texas
- Sommerville Design Charrette – Shane Williamson, Architect, Toronto
Experiential Block Week
- Lili Tayefi – Printing Paste: 3D printing seminar
- Bushra Hashim – Neurodiversity and Design
- Cameron Gilles – Spatial Justice in Heritage Building Restoration
- Maria Landry – Codes and Bylaws in Design – On-site and classroom investigations of building codes and bylaws
- Dr. Akunekwe Chika Daniels – Equity in Architecture
- Dr. David Monteyne – Music, Space, and Place
- Valerio Morabito – Representing the City: Drawings
- Larry Pearson – Conservation of Historic Sites
- Nick Pryce – Municipal Planning Law
Gillmor Theory Seminar
Instructor: Wil Marquez
Explores architectural history and theory as the context for the production of architecture and its artifacts. Students will work with the instructor to develop design responses within a provided theoretical framework. Outputs may include manifestos, speculative projects, drawings, prototypes, and exhibits.
Somerville Design Charrette
Instructor: Shane Williamson
Explores an architectural problem proposed by visiting practicing architect Shane Williamson and exposes students to the work of architectural practice and provides an opportunity for students to collaborate with the instructor on a speculative architectural project. Outputs include drawings, models, and exhibits of the work completed during the course.
Instructor: Kory Bieg
This course examines the role of computation and making in architecture and explores these topics through a guided process of fabrication using contemporary design techniques. Outputs may include prototypes of various scales, drawings, digital workflows, installations, and exhibits.
Sustainable & Healthy Communities Re-Imagined
Instructor: Sasha Tsenkova
This course introduces students to the principles and practice of sustainable community planning that promotes health and well-being. Covid-19 has been a catalyst for lifestyle changes in how we work, play, live, learn, worship, shop, and govern. It has exacerbated urban inequalities and patterns of social exclusion emphasizing the need to reimagine our built environment to accommodate new routines as well as to enhance social cohesion and community resilience. Planners across Canada have made an explicit commitment to creating and fostering healthy communities through better urban design, active transportation, green rebuilding, and collaborative engagement for social justice. This course will examine a variety of innovative planning and design strategies that have emerged to improve people’s health – post-pandemic residential design, affordable housing, tactical urbanism in public spaces, liveable streets, and community health initiatives. The block course uses design thinking pedagogy and blended learning strategies - lectures, self-directed field trip, directed reading and design charrette to enhance independent student learning.
Conservation of Historic Sites
Instructor: Larry Pearson
The course introduces the theory and practice of historic place conservation through lectures, guest speakers, case studies and site visits. Topics include an introduction to the history and principles of heritage place conservation, an overview of the legal and institutional framework in Alberta and Canada including an examination of municipal, provincial and federal roles, methods for identifying, evaluating and describing historic places (with specific reference to the approach taken by Alberta Culture), a discussion of the benefits of heritage place conservation through the lens of sustainable development, an examination of the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Place’s in Canada through a discussion of their application to a proposed project which will include a detailed review of their application to the treatment of a specific material type (sandstone).
Instructor: Lili Yas Tayefi
Lili Yas Tayefi (BFA’13) graduated from UCalgary with a BFA in Visual Studies and a minor in Architectural Studies.
Following her studies, Tayefi built an extruder for 3D printing with ceramics and never looked back. Her professional focus is on making, researching and educating.
Tayefi's course ‘Printing Paste’ guided students in 3D printing plastic with additive layering to allow a stack. She encouraged students to think about their outcomes as “Failing Forward.” With each prototype iteration, students learned from the ‘mistakes’ exactly where the stress points were and how they could improve the design. The design geometry is a result of what students can or can’t print.
"The point of the workshop is allowing the physical reality to influence the digital reality, and vice versa,” Tayefi explains.
LAND 672.3 L01
Instructor: Mathis Natvik
In this course, students will be introduced to the major ecosystems of Canada, the history of the field, and the core principles and theories of ecological restoration. Most of the course will focus on the planning and implementation of ecological restoration projects and will include the following subtopics: site analysis, creation of site-specific restoration plans, sourcing of plant materials, site preparation techniques, control of invasive species, managing earthwork/construction, installation of plant material, prescribed fire, and long-term management of projects. A special emphasis will be placed on the ecosystems of southern Alberta such as grasslands, wetlands, forests, streams, and riparian ecosystems. The course will be delivered via online lectures, discussions, group work sessions, and a field trip to various ecosystems in Calgary.
PLAN 672.7 L02
Instructor: Nick Pryce
This Block Course explores how the policy and regulatory planning regime works and improve students' understanding of how policy and regulatory planning documents operate within the governance structure of Alberta municipalities and how policy and regulatory documents interconnect documents. This course also explores the challenges faced by planners in the development and implementation of policy and regulations using examples from professional practice.
Music, Space and Place
Instructor: David Monteyne
This course provides an opportunity to step back from planning and design work in the studios and listen to music. Students won't just listen to music: they will explore and analyze a wide range of music as it relates to space and place.
Goethe famously wrote that "architecture is frozen music." He probably was referring to the visual and spatial rhythms and motifs of Baroque architecture. Can we make similar analogies today? What about at different scales, such as neighbourhoods or cities? Starting from this premise, the course will go well beyond it to consider things like spaces made for music (e.g., concert halls), and especially music that evokes a sense of place (country and western, hip-hop, etc.).
Neurodiversity and Design
Instructor: Bushra Hashim
How do we go about making sensitive, thoughtful environments for a population who might see colours as muted, vibrating, and neon, or who might not be able to sense time chronologically or know whether the feelings they are experiencing are current or from a memory two years ago? Who might not be able to read your body language or even your facial expression, and worst of all, who likely aren't able to tell you any of this?
This block-week course is a preliminary exploration of neurodiversity and its intersection with the built environment. Explored through the emergent fields of neuroarchitecture, sensory design, and behavioural psychology, students will critically engage in lectures, discussions, and exercises. Culminating in a final design project, the objective is to understand the art and science of the ever-complex human brain for which we design.
Codes, Bylaws and Site Visits
Instructor: Maria Landry
This course will explore the role of building codes and bylaws in design. Students will undertake an in-depth analysis of the building code and the land use bylaw, describing each of their roles and how they are different from each other. Students will be asked to work through a series of case study examples of projects located in different cities. As part of the course, students will be taken on a site visit where PPE will be required.
Spatial Justice Social Equity
Instructor: Cameron Gillies
This course explores the premise that adapting historic buildings to be physically and programmatically inclusive spaces is vital to the conservation of historic buildings and critical to the reconciliation of the profession of architecture.
Representing the City: Drawing
Instructor: Valerio Morabito
The ability to visually communicate landscape contexts as well as planning and design concepts through a powerful narrative is critical to landscape architects, planners, and architects. It is an essential part of their investigative methods and the planning and design process, and an expressive medium to communicate their vision to project stakeholders. The course will focus on the built environment and engage students in an exploration of innovative and imaginative ways of graphic communication.
The course will focus its energy on imagining ideas in which trees and buildings will be more symbiotic, representing utopian ideas of an urban forest invasion.
Equity in Architecture: Pursuing Socio-Spatial Justice
ARCH 672.24 Lec 05
Instructor: Chika Daniels-Akunekwe
This five-day intensive course offers both an introduction into and in-depth study of the nature of architecture/architectural design, as it pertains to the architect’s ethical responsibility of ensuring justice and equity in design for the client as well as for the greater community. This course will explore the forces at play and their effect in determining the final architectural output/outcome. Students will work both individually and in teams to reflect on, and critically review select architectural design periods/eras. Activities including assessing/evaluating social problems and the design intervention that was prescribed and executed. Students will be expected to, through reflective essays, identify a solution within a specified urban setting, discuss it in-depth, with an objective to identifying how the solution performed versus what supplementary elements/ideas could have been integrated to improve the solution’s efficiency.
Experimental Learning in Architecture. Generative Design - REVIT, MidJourney and ChatGPT
ARCH 672 L06
Instructor: David Burch
This class explores the potential and impact of AI Based generative conceptual design. Students will look at methods of taking design options generated by MidJourney and converting them to buildable projects in REVIT, using families, and potentially Adaptive Components and conceptual masses. Then describing the project using Chat GPT. MidJourney allows students to explore several design options to create a rough design idea. This idea needs to be rationalized through modeling. Adaptive components bring shape and form to architecture, allowing designers to craft complex geometry easily. Using this technology in pattern panel families, adaptive component families, conceptual massing environments or projects can create a seamless design for architects as well as an aesthetically pleasing outcome. Chat GPT will be used both to create the final project narrative, but can also be used to create meaningful Midjourney Prompt to feed into the generation of the design concepts. Students will write a short description of their methods, along with their impressions of this process and its usefulness. This is an exploration of these new tools.
Past Block Week Offerings
Fall 2022 Block Week
Representing the City: Landscape Photography
Instructor: Luca Nostri
Course coordinator: Enrica Dall’Ara
The objective of this course was to view, observe, investigate, interpret, and communicate urban landscapes through the medium of photography. The course embraced an artistic approach to landscape observation, analysis, and representation.
Students acquired technical skills in photography and learned how to explore, frame, and understand urban spaces by means of the use of photography. The field of exploration is in the use of the specific visual language of photography to understand how the world is translated into a photograph and how a photograph orders in space and time the segment of the world that it shows.
Not Rendering, The Euphoric Happiest Day That Ever Happened
Instructor: Dan Hapton
This Block Week elective began with a critique of rendering practices in the field of architecture. Why is it always the euphoric happiest day that ever happened? As Lou Reed would say, “just a perfect day, problems all left alone…”
One answer is that the practice of rendering was stolen. The corporate world took it from you. They took it from us—architects. Developers need euphoric-Vitruvian visions to secure investment and justify Urban Renewal. “Don’t worry about those historic buildings, or that poor neighbourhood, if we build this, everyone will be so happy. See, it’s just like this rendering,” says the developer.
But rendering was once a substantial and creative disciplinary practice. It was a technique in cahoots with drawing and modelling–not just the last step in a sales pitch. It could reveal unknown potentials. It could be abstract. It was a living part of our creative work. It still can be.
This course taught software techniques for rendering, animation, 3D modelling, and digital drawing. These skills are widely applicable to all design disciplines and their associated professional practices. Students used Blender in combination with other design software. Blender is an advanced and accessible 3D software suite that is prominent in the VFX and Game Design industries. This course had 2 assignments that taught both fundamental and advanced 3D software skills.
There were tutorials to aid in skill building, and group reviews to discuss techniques, aesthetics, and theories. The deliverables were digital images and animations that challenge preconceived notions of architectural design and its media.
HC#4, 2018, 148 x 115 cm, C-print by Beate Guetschow. Appropriated from www.beateguetschow.de
Experiential Learning in Planning | Igniting Intelligent Communities
PLAN 672.4 L01
Instructor: Dr. Thomas Keenan
Intelligent Communities are the latest iteration of the “Smart Cities” concept, which has been around for several decades. Both consider using technology to improve lives and improve community functions. However, the Intelligent Community approach also involves community engagement and thoughtful consideration of whether or not a technology is appropriate.
As an example, a system that tracks people entering a building might be helpful in case of an evacuation emergency, but it can also invade the privacy of the occupants. This course focused on how to actually launch Intelligent Community projects by determining the gaps (technology, educated workforce, vision, etc.) and seeking to address them. Successful case studies were reviewed and students will tackle, in groups, real world Intelligent Community planning. The ethical aspects of implementing technology were also discussed.
Municipal Planning Tools | Building Your Planning Toolbox
PLAN 672.6 L03
Instructor: Teresa Goldstein
This course introduced students to the municipal planning process through a fast-paced, four-day intensive exploration of planning tools, planning theories in practice, field studies, political/ governmental acumen, and reflective practice. As an intermediate-level course, broad explorations of each topic were provided. Primarily technical, application-based learning, this course also featured a variety of lectures/ discussions with current practitioners in the fields of Planning, Engagement, Real Estate, and Land Development. The intention is to build on their existing planning knowledge and expose students to the many daily interactions that go into planning. The City of Calgary is currently in the process of redoing its current local area planning system. The existing 260 local area plans provide incomplete coverage across Calgary and are often outdated. The City’s intent is to replace these plans with a new set of modernized local area plans that have citywide coverage. The students worked through this program as a conceptual avenue to explore current planning and municipal tools.
Experiential Learning in Architecture
ARCH 672.20 L06
Instructor: Farhad Mortezaee
In this block week studio, community greenhouse was designed to accommodate year-round indoor programs such as early childhood development, seniors’ engagement, and an events venue. Students were asked to design a five thousand-square-feet structure with translucent facades with the main objective of urban farming and providing food security, social interactions, and community engagement. The designs incorporated a building envelope assembly that became an intersection of utility and beauty. Vacant sites in specific communities in wards 9 and 10, where the average family income is substantially below the City of Calgary median income, were selected.
Intro to Architectural Pavilions
Instructor: Khalid Omokanye
This three-unit course served as a hands-on, rapid introduction to architectural pavilions, exploring their purpose, evolution, and current iterations as a means to present architectural ideas, materiality, and modes of making.
Indigenous Design/Knowledge Keeping
Instructor: Adrian A. Stimson
This block course focus on reimagining monuments. The last number of years has seen a rethinking or reimagining of what monuments are, can, and should be. History and historical figures are under more scrutiny and as such artists, designers, and architects are reimagining what monuments represent now and into the future. Instructor Adrian Stimson will guided students through several public monument projects he has undertaken, through the cultural lens of his Blackfoot world view, public/corporate clients, and Burning Man. Students were encouraged to research current thoughts, trends, and projects to influence their own creative reimagining of monuments.
Energy + Environment Session
ARCH 672.21 L07
Instructor: Dr. Ali Syed
The objective of the course was to introduce students to the concepts of energy and environmental sustainability. The course will focus on the development of the energy model. The goal was to provide an understanding of the energy usage of buildings and be able to assist HVAC and architectural design teams to optimize their design for the best energy and cost options. The modeling software used for this course will be RETScreen.
Winter 2022 Block Week
During the Block Week courses, SAPL students had an opportunity to participate in a wide variety of intensive workshops related to their fields of study and interests. ZHCode's Shajay Bhooshan led a course on 'Computational Geometry', Mathis Natvik led a course on Ecological Restoration Plans, James Furlong worked with students on 'Exploring Deep Green Retrofits' along with courses about 'Music, Space and Place', 'Principles of Historic Conservation' and Municipal Planning Law.
Instructor: Ouri Scott
Ouri Scott (BA’02), British Columbia's first female Indigenous architect, taught SAPL students how to create Multigenerational Housing design briefs using Indigenous Design and Community Engagement principles.
What are some of the Indigenous principles of community engagement?
“Listening, asking questions, being flexible – not having preconceived ideas,” Scott explains. “Indigenous design is architecture with a little a. The architect has to remove their ego from it.”
For architects, the shift from creator to collaborator can be challenging but, Scott insists, it’s necessary when the objective is community engagement.
“If [the design] is not something the client wants or needs, it is not something they will celebrate or take care of.”
Working with What's Around
Instructor: Zachary Mollica
Students worked in six groups to develop and produce furniture scale artefacts informed by ingrained material characteristics.
Through observation (written notes) students became familiar with their pieces of wood. They unlocked further ways to analyze their pieces through 3D scanning (photogrammetry). This resulted in accurate digital models used to describe, design and fabricate form.
Once scanning was complete, students developed designs for artefacts in response to the wood's grain and connections.
'Softbuilt Structures' Block Week with Dr. Felecia Davis, March 2021
SAPL Block Week March 2021 with Dr. Felecia Davis, Penn State University featuring students Maria Grygoryeva Candice Cheah Rebecca EJ Choi Anna Guan
Arch Agency Block Week - Group Film - March 2020
Devised in conjunction with the Canadian Architecture Forums on Education, and the CAFÉ forum held at the City Building Design Lab on March 12, 2020, the Arch Agency block week course at the University of Calgary speculated on the future of architecture and architectural agency through experimental play, social innovation, ethnographic adventure, videography, mise-en-scène, performance and storytelling.
This video installation takes inspiration from the 2015 Manifesto project by artist Julian Rosefeldt. Thank you to guest lecturers Kris Kelly-Frere and Lisa Landrum for leading students through the creation of adapted, exemplary manifestos of the last century, that influence public perception of architectural potential.
Three enrichment lectureships are designed for students in the Master of Architecture program. They are offered every year during the March block week. Architecture students must complete at least one lectureship as part of their degree requirements.
Gillmor Visiting Lectureship
The Douglas Gillmor Visiting Lectureship invites a prominent historian or theoretician to give a series of advanced seminars in architectural history and/or theory. It was established to recognize the contributions of Emeritus Professor Douglas Gillmor, the founding Director of the Architecture Program. The recipient of the lectureship also delivers a public lecture.
This course is only available to students in the Architecture Program, and by special permission of the course manager. The course may be repeated for elective credit.
Previous Gillmor Lecturers:
2020 Olon Dotson
2019 Dora-Epstein Jones
2017 Clare Lyster, Chicago
2016 Liam Young, Tomorrow's Thoughts Today
2015 Dr. David Gissen, California College of the Arts
2014 Dr. Mary McLeod, Columbia University
2013 Dr. Vittoria De Palma, University of Southern California
2012 Dr. Shelley Hornstein, York University
2011 Dr. Jane Rendell, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
2010 Dr. Angela Piccini, Bristol University
2009 Dr. Adrian Parr, University of Cincinnati
2008 Dr. Karen Till, Virginia Tech
2007 Dr. Setha Low, CUNY Graduate School
Somerville Visiting Lectureship
The William Lyon Somerville Visiting Lectureship, established in 1992, invites a prominent architect, academic, or critic to direct a design charrette with a group of students. It was established by an endowment given to the University of Calgary by the late Mrs. A.G. Burton of Calgary in memory of her father. William Lyon Somerville, ARCA, FRAIC, FRIBA, was a distinguished Toronto architect. He had a long, energetic, and successful career based in Toronto, practicing for a substantial period under the well-known firm name Somerville, McMurrich and Oxley.
The gift was matched by the University to create a fund for the maintenance of an annual visiting distinguished lectureship program in architecture, within the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. The recipient of the lectureship also delivers a public lecture.
2020 Chris Cornelius
2019 Florian Idenburg
2018 Grace La, Boston
2017 Mauricio Pezo & Sofia von Ellrichshausen, Chile
2016 Chris Sharples, New York City
2015 Rick Joy, Tuscon
2014 Scott Marble, New York City
2013 Brigette Shim, Toronto
2012 Michael Weinstock, London, UK
2011 Adam Caruso, London, UK
2010 Mark Smout, London, UK
2009 Hrvoje Njiric, Zagreb, Croatia
2008 Koen van Velsen, Hilversum, Netherlands
Read about how the intellectual and creative approach to architecture used in the 2017 Somerville Block Course produced unexpected results.
Taylor Visiting Lectureship
The more-recently established Dale Taylor Visiting Lectureship is an intensive one-week design workshop that focuses on digital fabrication, technology, or building science. It is named to honour Dale Taylor, FRAIC, a past Director of the Master of Architecture degree program, and Professor Emeritus. The Taylor Lectureship celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018 with the TaylorX Symposium. Read about the 2014 lectureship with Joshua Vermillion: "Fabrication and simulation expert on campus for student design workshop and public lecture".
Previous recipients include:
2020 Felecia Davis
2019 Julie Larsen
2018 Dana Cupkova, Pittsburgh
2017 Tom Verebes, Hong Kong
2016 Ellie Abrons and Adam Fure, Michigan
2015 Mariana Ibañez & Simon Kim, Cambridge
2014 Joshua Vermillion, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
2013 Alvin Huang, Los Angeles
2012 Nick Puckett, Kentucky
2011 Drura Parrish, Kentucky
2010 Andrew Kudless, San Francisco
2009 Marc Fornes, New York