Design Matters

Design Matters is a thought-provoking lecture series that brings to Calgary a range of designers, innovators, and thought leaders exploring the edge of design and city building.

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. 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.

We seek out speakers from across North America and around the globe. The lectures spark conversations about a variety of 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!

2020/21 Series

The Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA) initiated its first pan-Canada lecture series in response to COVID-related restrictions on traveling and large gatherings, inviting students and practitioners across the country to join the conversation. The 12 schools of architecture agreed upon “diversity” as the theme for this year. The school are taking turns to present two lectures a month starting on the west coast and moving across Canada. Read the full September 21, 2020 announcement.

SAPL hosted the second event of the series. Titled “Equity in Design + Design Education”, Alberto de Salvatierra moderated a conversation with Wandile Mthiyane, Dr. Craig Wilkins, Martina Jileckova and Vivian Ton. In the spirit of sharing and knowledge dissemination, a recording of the event is available on our homepage at until September 30, 2020 to make the content accessible for those who had scheduling conflicts or live in other time zones.

Full lecture series schedule and registration information at


Welcome to Design Matters, where we discuss popular topics and bold new ideas in design. Based at the University of Calgary, our student hosts look to delve into popular topics and new ideas with today’s leaders of design in the built environment.

Connect with us on Instagram @designmatters.podcast and email us at

Hosted by: John Baziuk, Emily Kaing


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.


2019/20 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!.

Chip Sullivan + Elizabeth Boults 

September 2019

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.

Event details → 

Kate Thompson

October 2019 

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.

Event details →


Jean Verville

October 2019

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. 

Housing Design Excellence - European Narratives

October 2019 

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

Walker McKinley

November 2019 

Towards a New Creative Practice: The traditional practice of architecture has increasingly bifurcated into opposing models: the rarified world of the starchitect, and 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 McKinley Burkart has been developing a new model of practice, based 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.

Russell Acton

November 2019 

TOYING WITH TALL WOOD: Games, Gambits and City-Building. Over the last decade, tall wood has been lauded as the latest movement soon to transform our city skylines with wooden high-rises: the building blocks by which entire neighbourhoods are to be reimagined, reformed and reshaped. Acton will share how Acton Ostry Architects entered the world of tall wood and 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 was also the opening reception for the MASS TIMBER exhibition.

Just City

January 2020 

The 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. Just City also has a double-meaning: “just the city” or “only the city.” This topic 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. Panelists: Dustin Couzens, MoDA, Jessie Andjelic, SPECTACLE Bureau, Matt Knapik, O2 Planning + Design

Hernan Díaz Alonso

February 2020 

Hernan Díaz Alonso assumed the role of Director at SCI-Arc in 2015. 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.

Olon Dotson

March 2020 

Reflections on First Nations Scholar and Fourth World Space. 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 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 United States is a Fourth World Nation as a result of the manner in which it was established, how it developed, and that it has failed to confront its ever-increasing unevenness. Fourth World Theory provides a foundation for a critical investigation of society and culture though an analytical lens, and an examination of the inequities increasingly prevalent throughout a post-industrial, post-agrarian, post-developing space of inevitable decline. Will Canada follow in this regard, or will it lead by example, re-imagining life as a means to heal humanity—a humanity 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). 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. 

Chris Cornelius

Chris Cornelius

March 2020 

Associate Professor in the School of Architecture & Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 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.

Cancelled: John Patkau

April 2020 

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


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

Featured Design Matters:

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!