Rethinking Urban Sprawl Panel, including Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek

Design Matters

Lecture Series

Exploring how we could create a better future through design

Design Matters is a thought-provoking lecture series, organized by the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, which seeks to inspire transformative change. The series brings to Calgary a range of designers, innovators, and thought leaders exploring the edge of design and city building. 

Lectures are delivered from September to May, and feature provocative speakers who examine the latest ideas in architecture, regional and urban planning, and landscape architecture. The lectures challenge attendees to broaden their thinking on a myriad of issues related to design.  Design Matters engages students, public officials, industry professionals and interested citizens — people who want to learn, understand and address design issues affecting our community.

The lectures spark conversations about societal issues by engaging with innovative thinkers. Attendees are encouraged to recognize the important role design plays in our daily lives. 

Join industry professionals, faculty, students, alumni and people in the community who care about design and building a great city at an upcoming lecture!

2023-2024 Lectures: Global Citizenship and Design

This year’s Design Matters lecture series focuses on global citizenship and design in conjunction with the launch of the new Bachelor of Design in City Innovation (BDCI) undergraduate degree program. This year’s speakers will be addressing topics such as gender and planning, informal settlements, the missing middle, and urban architecture.

Upcoming Events

Urban Architecture - Gabriela Carrillo (Taller Gabriela Carrillo), Mexico City 

  • Wednesday, April 3

Join Us


Admission: Free

Location: City Building Design Lab (CBDLab), 616 Macleod Trail SE

Time: Reception at 5:00 PM, lecture begins at 6:00 PM


DM Poster 23/24

Working With: A Relational Practice

David Malda, Seattle

David Malda explores the potential of landscape to connect people to the land and to each other through the land. By focusing on building relationships among the people and places that already exist, our work can support broader initiatives for belonging rather than simply adding another new thing. This idea of "working with" begins with taking the time and care to understand what is already here, how it came to be the way it is, and then crafting strategies for the future from this foundation.

David will share this approach through recent projects including Hemisfair Civic Park in San Antonio, TX. As a former World’s Fair site that had become disconnected from the daily lives of residents, the park’s redesign focused on drawing together multiple narratives of the land to enhance everything that already existed around it and creating a new gathering place for all of San Antonio.

Lecture recording will be availible on our YouTube channel soon.

David Malta and Enrica

Thank you to RAIC for sponsoring this event.


Platform MIDDLE: Architecture for Housing the 99%

Johanna Hurme, Winnipeg


Housing affordability in North America has reached a crisis point. Against the backdrop of rapid urbanization and an accelerating environmental emergency, we need solutions for city building that are more socially and economically sustainable, as well as multi-family housing that is more equitable and livable. Working within a context where the vast majority of the housing stock is produced by the private sector and designed by architects, now more than ever the profession can position itself as an indispensable creative resource, shaping communities and positively affecting the lives of millions of residents.

Johanna Hurme is a co-founder and managing partner of 5468796 Architecture in Winnipeg, Canada. In the past fifteen years the firm has received numerous awards and recognitions nationally and internationally, and its work has been published in over 200 books and publications. In 2012 5468796 represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in Architecture, and in 2013 they were selected as recipient of the 2013 Prix de Rome Award in Architecture for Canada by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Architecture is a Verb

Ana de Brea, Buenos Aires


No Labels/Design is a Tool of Action/Architecture is a Verb is a broad and effervescent speculative reservoir designated to undertake ventures related to modern reflections and contemporary works of spatial and cultural matters. The comprehension of envisaging the design discipline (architecture included) as a vigorous energy intends to spotlight the value of ‘construction’ -the tangible and/or the intellectual. That vigorous energy looks for projects like processes of thinking and making, as well as it questions how those processes work in the global scenario of today.

Ana de Brea is an architecture professor, practitioner, artist, and critical observer of modern architecture, design, and culture. In parallel to her academic and professional efforts in Argentina, Ana worked for more than fifteen years as columnist and chief editor of the architecture and design weekly supplement in two of the most important international-newspapers in the Spanish language until 2001. She was an architecture professor in South America for fifteen years and joined Ball State University first as Invited Visiting Scholar (2001-2002) and a year later she became a faculty member, and granted tenure in 2007.


Coded Light: Digital Explorations in the Continuum of Ceramic Craft

Isabel Ochoa, University of Waterloo


The lecture will explore the synthesis of traditional craftsmanship and emergent technologies in shaping the landscape of contemporary ceramic craft. Through the lens of design collaborative OCH Works, and their perspective as both architectural designers and ceramicists, the discussion will extend to the intricacies and constraints involved in developing digital tools tailored for precise interaction with light and ceramic materials. The talk will delve into the distinctive challenges and innovations associated with 3D printing high-fired clays.

Isabel Ochoa is an architectural designer, researcher, and adjunct faculty member at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture where she currently teaches Design Studio, Digital Fabrication, and Visual and Digital Media courses. Isabel is also a co-founder of OCH Works – an architectural design and research collaborative that operates at the intersection of architecture, material computation, and fine craft. The practice investigates how contemporary building methods can be challenged by attuning emerging technologies to material behaviour. OCH Works' current research explores how computational tools can generate materially responsive engagements between ceramics and light. 

Block Week Spekers
Ana de Brea photo
Isabel Ochoa

Theresa W. Design Matters

Sustainable Favelas: The Key to Climate Justice and Thriving Cities

Theresa Williamson, Rio de Janeiro


Residents across Rio de Janeiro's favela communities have been adapting to climate change and coming up with development solutions in the absence of public investment for a century. Come hear how hundreds of grassroots organizers have come together as the Sustainable Favela Network, to develop, recognize, strengthen, consolidate and reproduce these solutions at scale. And reflect on what lessons we can draw from Rio's communities for equitable and sustainable urban development around the world.

Theresa Williamson, Ph.D. is a city planner, community organizer, environmentalist and founding executive director of Catalytic Communities, an award-winning NGO providing strategic support to Rio de Janeiro’s favelas since 2000. She is an advocate for the recognition of favelas’ heritage status and resident rights, with multiple book chapters and four opinion pieces in The New York Times. Dr. Williamson earned her B.A. in Biological Anthropology from Swarthmore College and PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. CatComm’s asset-based programs, created and maintained in close partnership with favela partners, include RioOnWatch (bilingual favela news platform), the Sustainable Favela Network (socio-environmental solutions in over 100 favelas), Favela Community Land Trust (land and development rights), and Favelas Unified Dashboard (crowdsourced community research from Covid to water/energy rights). Awards include: Brazilian Federation of Architects and Urbanists prize for contribution to Brazilian cities, Megaphone Award for independent investigative reporting, Anthem Award for Best Local Awareness Program, American Society of Rio prize for contributions to the city, NAHRO Award for contributions to the international housing debate.

Unwalling Citizenship 

Teddy Cruz, San Diego


The Tijuana-San Diego border region is a hotly politicized area representing some of North Americas most debated issues, including deepening social and economic inequality, dramatic migratory shifts, urban informality, and climate change.

Teddy Cruz will share the work of Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman at the US-Mexico border region. He will discuss their work on “citizenship culture" and the network of civic spaces they have co-developed with border communities to cultivate regional and global solidarities.

Teddy Cruz is a Professor of Public Culture and Urbanization in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, and a principal in Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice investigating borders, informal urbanization, civic infrastructure and public culture. They exhibit widely across the world, and have published a new two-volume monograph with MIT Press and Hatje Cantz: Spatializing Justice: Building Blocks and Socializing Architecture: Top-Down / Bottom-Up. Recipient of the Rome Prize in Architecture in 1991, Cruz’s honors include the 2011 Ford Foundation Visionaries Award, the 2013 Architecture Award from the US Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2018 Vilcek Prize in Architecture.

Teddy Cruz

Sara Candiracci

Gender Responsive Planning

Sara Candiracci, Milan 


Gender responsive planning strategically considers the different needs and priorities of all genders by integrating the differing perspectives into all stages of planning. We welcomed Sara Candiracci, remotely from Shanghai, to discuss the importance of gender responsive planning in urban centres.

Sara Candiracci is an Associate Director in Arup's Cities, Planning and Design team in Milan, and the Global Leader for Social Value and Equity. She also leads Arup’s work on gender-responsive urban planning, and on child-friendly and playful cities.

With more than two decades of experience as an urban planner, researcher, and international development expert, Sara has been at the forefront of designing and leading projects and programs focused on creating more equitable, inclusive, healthy and resilient cities. Some examples of her work are the Proximity of Care Design Guide, the Playful Cities Design Guide, the Nature Based Play Report, and the Cities Alive Publication Designing Cities that work for Women.


Le Corbusier: Global Architect

Miquel Adria, Mexico City


The first lecture in SAPL’s 2023-24 Design Matters lecture series served as the opening night event for the LC150+ traveling exhibition, which was hosted by SAPL for the month of September at the CBDLab. The lecture built on themes of modern architecture, its legacy, colonial dynamics, and the global scale of its impact.

Miquel Adriá, an architect from the Higher Technical School of Architecture of Barcelona and a Doctor of Architecture from the European University of Madrid, was the Director of the Arquine architecture magazine (a review of architecture in Mexico and Latin America). He was a member of the National System of Creators of FONCA, a counselor of the Ministry of Culture of Mexico City, a member of the Casa Tapatía Luís Barragán Architecture Foundation, and the author of over 30 books on Latin American architecture.

Image of Prof. Miquel Adria.

2022/2023 Lectures

Abolition Geographies of New York

Ashley Dawson 

Ashley Dawson is Professor of English at the Graduate Center / City University of New York and the College of Staten Island. Recently published books of his focus on key topics in the Environmental Humanities, and include People’s Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons (O/R, 2020), Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (Verso, 2017), and Extinction: A Radical History (O/R, 2016). Dawson is the author of a forthcoming book entitled Environmentalism from Below (Haymarket Press)and is co-editor of a volume of essays called Decolonize Conservation! (Common Notions Press).

Ashley Dawson (he/they)

Rethinking Urban Growth Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion: Rethinking Urban Growth

Jyoti Gondek, Mayor of Calgary; Joe Case, Vice President, Mattamy Homes; and June Williamson, Professor, Author, Architect, and Fellow at the Urban Design Forum,  Alkarim Devani, president, RNDSQR; and Alex Ferguson, senior VP, sevelopment, Anthem Properties Group Ltd.

As a city, we have recognized the importance of taking action to combat climate change. As a result, city council has declared a climate change emergency, and leaders in our industry understand and support this decision. This panel addresses the big question, how will Calgary move from its past actions, and shift practice to enable more sustainable growth patterns?.

Preferred Futures, Indigenous Approaches to Planning

Steve DeRoy

Steve DeRoy is a thought leader, co-founder, director, and past president of The Firelight Group. On Nov. 30, he discussed the different approaches for integrating Indigenous mapping into planning exercises and how these can serve to support Indigenous rights and interests.

Steve De Roy, Indigenous Mapping

Kristian Lars Ahlmark

Design as an Ecology

Kristian Lars Ahlmark

Discover current methods and approaches to sustainable architecture and design with thought leader, Partner, and Design Director, Kristian Ahlmark from Danish architecture studio Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. Hear him share unique design methods of sustainability processes that the studio has developed and implemented in their practice, covering topics including but not limited to adaptive transformation, material circularlity and the use of timber in high-rise structures exemplified through the recently ground-breaking project, “Rocket&Tigerli”.


Luca Nostri

Four Courtyards: Place and Identity in Italian Photography

Luca Nostri

How do the places we inhabit shape who we are? What stories emerge in the ways places and spaces intersect and relate to one another? Four Courtyards, a lecture presented by lauded Italian Photographer Luca Nostri, answers these questions through unique insight and inspiring photography. This thought-provoking lecture challenges spectators to broaden their perspectives and gain an increased awareness of the built environment and their place within it.

Jenny Jones

Design + Stewardship for the Next Civilization

Jenny Jones

Jones is a partner with California landscape architecture firm TERREMOTO. She visited the University of Calgary's School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape to discuss landscape and garden-making with an experimental, hands-on approach, and with an eye to strengthening land stewardship ethics and culture.



Design Matters 2020/21 Sponsors


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!


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


Pan-Canada lecture series, Fall 2020
Design Matters 2019/20
Design Matters 2018/19
Design Matters 2017/18