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From university campuses to all Canadians: Rise for Architecture’s surprising journey

BY Darryl Condon
Woman in front of RISE poster

Truth be told, we didn’t always have grand designs to see an Architecture Policy for Canada.

The Rise for Architecture initiative began with more modest discussions about how best to train up future architects, including the need to re-envision education and academic accreditation in Canadian architecture schools.

But one conversation led to another – until we were asking tough questions about the future of the profession and its potential for positive impact in our local communities, and whether we were doing enough to build healthy, vibrant, and resilient public spaces.

We soon realized that for there to be meaningful change in how we design buildings and public spaces, some important discussions were needed and we’d need the input of all Canadians. And so, the Rise for Architecture initiative was born.

Our lightbulb moment

In September of 2014, a diverse group of architects – educators, regulators and practitioners – met to discuss the future of architectural education, including the academic accreditation systems that govern Canadian schools of Architecture.

It was the first time, in more than a decade, we’d had this type of discussion in Canada.

The initial day’s schedule was wide ranging and included energetic discussions about the future of the profession and – more importantly – what the Canadian public required from it. The second day, we focused on the structure of academic accreditation and the continuum of educational requirements needed.

For many who attended, this two-day event stressed the need for, and value of, conversations focused on the future of the profession and identified the lack of a forum for these to take place. So, it wasn’t long before an ad-hoc committee of architects involved in advocacy, professional regulation, and education gathered informally to discuss how to continue this important conversation.

From education to exploration and advocacy

Soon after, we came together as a formal committee, hosted by the Regulators of Architecture in Canada (RAOC – formerly CALA).

The Future of Architecture Committee brought together a diverse group from across Canada – members of regulatory bodies, schools of architecture, and advocacy bodies. In addition to ROAC, the committee’s work has been supported and expanded by the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA)), and the national advocacy body, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

Since 2016, this group has actively advanced direly-needed conversations about how the architectural profession can – and must – evolve to meet the changing needs of Canadians.

As part of this process, we recognized the global emergence of national architecture policies, and their effectiveness in helping to improve performance outcomes related to the built environment. And as we explored the work of others, the lack of robust policies in Canada became increasingly stark.

We knew we needed to act: To Rise for Architecture, and in doing so, improve the lives of all Canadians.

Since then, we’ve focused on promoting the potential benefits of an Architecture Policy for Canada, all-the-while hosting conversations within the profession and schools of architecture to establish a potential framework for this guiding document.

Between 2019 and 2020, we held discussions with more than 2,000 architects and students to challenge our initial assumptions and help shape an emerging vision.

Inviting new voices to the table

We’ve now built a policy framework, focusing on four key themes of Place, People, Prosperity and Potential. But we need input from everyday Canadians. We’re asking you to participate in shaping the communities in which we live, work, and play.

This broader feedback will inform a final report, which outlines a renewed vision for the profession, an articulation of what Canadians should expect from their communities, and some potential steps we must take to get there.

Once complete, the final report and its recommendations will be shared with the public, governments of all levels, and the profession – all with the aim of catalyzing needed changes, both now and the future.

Ultimately, we want all Canadians to be well served by those who have the privilege of shaping our communities, and we must ensure the systems that govern the architectural profession are robust and responsive to Canada’s rapidly-changing needs.

Join us in creating places where all Canadians can thrive. Share your voice by taking our 5-minute survey.