Design Matters

Design Matters is a thought-provoking lecture series presented by the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape. Each year we bring to Calgary a range of designers, innovators, and thought leaders exploring the edge of design and city building.

2019/20 Design Matters Lecture Series

Where: City Building Design Lab, 616 Macleod Trail SE.
Dates: Details below
Time: 5pm reception | 6pm lecture 
Tickets: $10 for the public | free to students

The series challenges people to broaden their thinking on a myriad of issues related to design and city building and the pre-lecture reception is an opportunity to meet and mingle with Calgarians who have a passion for design and the promise of building great cities.

SAPL gratefully acknowledges support for the Design Matters lecture series from Calgary Downtown AssociationCanadian Wood CouncilCarson McCullochexp., SSRHCUniversity of Calgary Alumni, and Wood WORKS!.


Energetic, intelligent, and want to activate events? Email to start the conversation.

Consider yourself a can-do type? Student podcast co-hosts John Baziuk (MArch’21) and Emily Kaing (MLA’21) are looking for support on the Design Matters episodes. Write to and help out.



Olon Dotson

Tuesday March 10, 2020 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Gillmor Lecturer: Olon Dotson, Ball State University, Indiana

Reflections on First Nations Scholar George Manuel and Fourth World Space: from the Fourth World Nation to the South

The late Shuswap Chief George Manuel is often credited for first publishing the term “Fourth World” in his 1974 publication, The Fourth World: An Indian Reality. Upon contemplating the systemic political and socioeconomic disparities existing among indigenous peoples, Manuel’s Fourth World was in essence, a call to action, independence, and nationalism particularly for First Nations peoples of Canada in response to immeasurable injustices experienced through European expansionism, violence, domination, colonialism, imperialism, and genocidal actions.

The neighbor to the South is a Fourth World Nation. It earned this distinction as direct a result of the manner in which it was established, how it developed, and the fact that it has demonstratively failed to confront its ever-increasing disparity and unevenness. Fourth World Theory provides a foundation and framework for a critical investigation of society and culture though an analytical lens, and an examination of the inequities that are increasingly prevalent throughout a post-industrial, post-agrarian, post-developing space of inevitable decline. As a nation founded under a legacy of genocidal, racist, and sexist ordering systems, the United States is rendered helpless to exhibiting overwhelming evidence of multitudinous oppressive practices manifested through its blatant disparity. Will Canada follow in this regard, or will it lead by example, re-imagining life as a means to heal humanity - a humanity that has been subjected to the ills of hatred, greed, and power for its entire existence?

The Gillmor Lecture is named in honour of Douglas Gillmor (1930–2019). As the founding director of our architecture program and a pivotal member of SAPL (formerly the Faculty of Environmental Design), Professor Gillmor was a compassionate and thoughtful studio teacher who shaped generations of Calgary practitioners. 

Felecia Davis

Wednesday March 11, 2020 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Taylor Lecturer: Felecia Davis, Penn State Stukeman School and SOFTLAB@PSU, Pennsylvania

New World Shelters

Textiles operate as a mode of understanding the world and they bind us humans together as a species. Textiles are used in every culture on the planet, although we may use and make this material in different ways. In architecture, textiles made of animal skins or plant fibers were probably used to make the first shelters, as both protective clothing and enclosing space. As a liminal space between the body and environment these textiles became places of exchange and communication of information between people and their communities through shelter and clothing. There is a quiet revolution happening in the very textiles that can make up soft structures. Sensing textiles or computational textiles are textiles that can sense and respond to the environment or a human or animal body. The term computational textile is not my term but one that has been in use for textiles others call e-textiles, electronic textiles, or smart textiles. These textile systems sense their environment via digital electronic programming through micro-controllers and sensors or are programmed using the natural transformative quality of the material itself in connection with environmental cues such as humidity, temperature and light. These sensing textiles have a primary role communicating to us as occupants and as observers. They can shape the environment as well as our relations to textiles (as we know them) in ways that call for examination.

Felecia Davis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing in Pennsylvania State University’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

She earned a PhD from the Design and Computation Group in the School of Architecture and Planning at M.I.T. She received her Master of Architecture from Princeton University, and her Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Tufts University.

She is the director of SOFTLAB@PSU which designs, develops and creates methods for designing computational textiles or textiles that respond to commands through computer programming, electronics and sensors or by working with the natural transformation of material for use in architecture, furnishings and other soft goods.

Davis’ work develops computational methods in relation to specific bodies in specific places engaging in social, cultural and political constructions. Davis’s work in architecture and textiles connects art and science and was featured by PBS/NPR in the Women in Science Profiles Series. She is currently completing a book titled Softbuilt: Networked Architectural Textiles, forthcoming from Actar-D Press that focuses on how designers can use computational textiles for communication and the formation of space.

She has lectured, taught workshops, published, and exhibited her work in textiles, computation, and architecture internationally, including the Swedish School of Textiles, Microsoft Research, and the Media Lab at M.I.T.

The Taylor Lecture is named in honour of Dale Taylor. Professor Taylor served as head of SAPL’s architecture and industrial design programs and remains an emeritus professor. He has been a registered architect since 1972, and is a mentor and advisor to many Calgary practices. Recently retired, he continues as a mentor and consulting architect to McKinley Burkart and FRANK Architecture + Interiors.

Chris Cornelius

Chris Cornelius

Thursday March 12, 2020 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Somerville Lecturer: Chris Cornelius, studio:indigenous, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin

Associate Professor in the School of Architecture & Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Chris Cornelius is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, focuses his research and practice on the architectural translation of culture; in particular, American Indian culture. He is the founding principal of studio:indigenous, a design and consulting practice serving American Indian clients.

The Somerville Visiting Lectureship was established by an endowment given to the University of Calgary by Mrs. A.G. Burton (Mary) in memory of her father William Lyon Somerville, distinguished Canadian architect and co-founder of Somerville, McMurrich and Oxley. This lectureship brings a visiting practitioner, academic or critic to SAPL’s architecture program every year, and a public lecture for the University and the community it serves, in the subject of architecture.

John Patkau

Wednesday April 1, 2020 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
John Patkau, Patkau Architects, Vancouver

Work & Play

In over 40 years of practice, relentlessly engaging the cultural and physical environment with design, Patkau Architects’ studio has developed two somewhat divergent modus operandi. The first includes planning and building projects, commissioned by clients. The second consists in research projects that are largely self-initiated. Work & Play reflects on the dual nature of these streams of engagement in terms intention and circumstance, but also to reflect the ambiguous distinction between Work and Play when both are driven by curiosity, discipline and passion.

Lecture sponsored by Carson • McCulloch Associates Ltd.

Design Matters 2019/20 sponsors

Previous lectures

We seek out speakers from across North America and around the globe, sparking conversations about a variety of societal issues by engaging with innovative thinkers.

Past seasons:
Design Matters Lecture Series 2018/19
Design Matters Archive

Featured Design Matters lecturers:

Hernan Díaz Alonso

Wednesday February 5, 2020 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Hernan Díaz Alonso, Sci-Arc, Los Angeles

Hernan Díaz Alonso assumed the role of Director at SCI-Arc beginning in the 2015 academic year. He has been a distinguished faculty member since 2001, serving in several leadership roles, including coordinator of the graduate thesis program from 2007–10, and graduate programs chair from 2010–15. He is widely credited with spearheading SCI-Arc’s transition to digital technologies, and he played a key role in shaping the school’s graduate curriculum over the last decade. In 2018, Diaz Alonso ranked amongst the top 25 Most Admired Educators by DesignIntelligence Rankings.

This event is also a book launch, exhibition opening and reception for Díaz Alonso's monograph on his work and career, The Surreal Visions of Hernán Díaz Alonso/HDA-x.

Lecture sponsored by EXP.

Just City

Wednesday January 15, 2020 | 5pm reception, 6pm panel

The Just City Panel explores topics such as: sharing the city and public space; transparency and awareness around injustice; social responsibility; surveillance and monitoring; the city of diversity and inclusiveness; and  self organization among citizens. The title can also have a double-meaning to say “just the city” or “only the city.” It is a topic that is open-ended with respect to the city: the city as a process, as built form, as an embodiment of collective ideas/values/meaning.

This panel is part of a series of 15 conversations being held across the country in conjunction with the release of Canadian Modern Architecture, 1967 to the Present – co-edited by Dr. Livesey with Canadian Architect editor Elsa Lam for Princeton Architectural Press. Books will be available for signing.

Moderator: Dr. Graham Livesey

Dustin Couzens, MoDA
Jessie Andjelic, SPECTACLE Bureau
Matt Knapik, O2 Planning + Design

Russell Acton

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Russell Acton, Acton Ostry Architects, Vancouver

TOYING WITH TALL WOOD: Games, Gambits and City-Building

Over the last decade, tall wood has been lauded as the latest movement that is to soon transform our city skylines with wooden high-rises that will be the building blocks by which entire neighbourhoods are to be reimagined, reformed and reshaped. Russell Acton will share how Acton Ostry Architects positioned the firm to enter the world of tall wood and what he sees as the key challenges that require exploration to further advance the tall wood movement, both at home and around the globe. 

This lecture is sponsored by Canadian Wood Council and Wood WORKS!. This event is also the opening reception for the MASS TIMBER exhibition which runs at the City Building Gallery until January 2020.

Walker McKinley

Wednesday November 6, 2019 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Walker McKinley, mckinley burkart, Calgary/Vancouver

Towards a New Creative Practice: The traditional practice of architecture has increasingly bifurcated into opposing models: the rarified  world of the Starchitect,  and at the other end the increasing commodification and specialization of the more common practitioner. For most of the industry this has led to a loss of influence and an inability to bring true value to projects. We are losing our seat at the table. In reaction to this McKinley Burkart has been seeking to develop a new model of practice, based less in hourly effort and a narrow understanding of the appropriate scope of the architect’s role, and more in the collaborative, multi-disciplinary mode of an intelligence agency. This ongoing process has led to the establishment of numerous entities within the firm - Black Chamber Think Tank, Little Sister Branding, Tableau Procurement, and Mosquito Agency Art Consultancy. Walker will discuss the real time evolution of this evolving creative practice. 

This lecture sponsored by UCalgary Alumni.

Housing Design Excellence - European Narratives

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 5pm reception, 6pm panel

Meet the architects: The panel features presentations of award-winning social housing projects in Amsterdam, London and Paris. This event is part of The Future of Affordable Housing Conference.

Moderator: Dr. Sasha Tsenkova

Christelle Avenier, Avenier Cornejo Architects, Paris
Jeroen Atteveld, Heren 5 Architecten, Amsterdam 
Paul Karakusevic, Karakusevic Carson Architect, London

Jean Verville

Wednesday October 23, 2019 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Jean Verville, Jean Verville Architecte, Montreal

Under the light of an open-minded approach, Jean Verville design process uses playful interactions to awaken the curiosity and inventiveness of everyone involved in a project. His creative game mediation aims to achieve a unique result driven by the singularity of the program, the particularities of the context and the diversity of skills and the personality of the team members. 

Kate Thompson

Wednesday October 2, 2019 | 5pm reception, 6pm lecture
Kate Thompson, Vice-President, Development, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

Innovation and Revitalization of Calgary’s Rivers District: Find out about the work CMLC has done, their approach, and how that will transfer into all of their upcoming projects.

Learn more about this past event >>


Chip Sullivan and Elizabeth Boults 

Thursday September 12, 2019
Chip Sullivan, UC Berkeley
Elizabeth Boults, UC Davis

Landscape architecture Professors Chip Sullivan (UC Berkeley) and Elizabeth Boults (UC Davis) lecture on (a history of) re-imagining landscapes as places including urban streets and leftover spaces.

Learn more about this past event >>

Sir David Adjaye

April 2019

Sir David Adjaye

Sir Adjaye shared his creative process, as well as his professional and personal commitment to the social purpose of architecture and design of civic buildings that connect communities. Renowned for an eclectic material and colour palette, and a capacity to offer a rich civic experience, his buildings differ in form and style, yet are unified by their ability to generate new typologies and to reference a wide cultural discourse.

Martha Schwartz

November 2018

Martha Schwartz

Thank you to all of those who attended the lecture on November 29. As promised, here are links to her top three resource pages:




Sierra Bainbridge

January 2019

Sierra Bainbridge

Sierra Bainbridge, principal of MASS Design Group based in Boston, provided a lecture on "Architecture is never neutral; it either hurts or heals. How can we intentionally use architecture as a tool for healing?". Read about Sierra's lecture: Feb 5, 2019.

Anderson Anderson

September 2018

Anderson Anderson

Architecture in the Means of Production: Over the last 20-30 years, the practice of architecture has changed more fundamentally and more rapidly than at any time in the history of the world, with advances in technology revolutionizing the way we design buildings. What comes next, in the evolution of the architect?

Julie Larsen, APTUM

March 2019

Julie Larsen

Julie Larsen of APTUM and Syracuse University provided a lecture titled "Counterfactual Materiality: Using Computation, Fabrication, and Environment to Design Beyond Existing Materials". Read about the lecture in "Can a city afford bad architecture?".

Ma Yansong

April 2015

Ma Yansong

How can high-density development keep people connected to nature and social life? Ma Yansong, founder and principal of Beijing’s MAD Architects, is bringing nature and architecture together at an unprecedented scale. Read about Ma Yansong's lecture on April 30, 2015.


Design Matters is made possible through the partnership with generous sponsors who have shared aspirations. Sponsorship presents a wonderful opportunity for companies to not only heighten community profile, but also to engage with talented students who will be leaders and practitioners.

Looking forward to learning with you!