Receive our forthcoming report in your inbox. Subscribe for updates

Over 2,000 Architects from Across Canada have been Heard!

BY John Stephenson

Beginning in the fall of 2014 a group of architects began meeting informally to consider the question of the future of the profession of architecture in light of what we perceived to be dramatic shifts in the nature of professional practice and the demands being placed on the design of the built world. Out of these conversations grew a set of values as a framework for a broad public conversation about the potential and power of Architecture as an agent for positive social and environmental change.

Over the past five years Rise for Architecture has crisscrossed the country talking with architects from east to west and north to south about this new vision for Architecture in Canada. The overwhelming response has been – the delivery of buildings and community spaces needs to change and the time for that change is now! In a series of pre-pandemic face-to-face workshops arranged with nine provincial and territorial associations of architecture from almost every Canadian jurisdiction as well as local and regional architectural organisations, Rise for Architecture challenged architects to reimagine the practice of architecture and the built world that Canadians inhabit.

Without exception the vast majority of participants agreed that when looked at through the lenses of People, Place, Prosperity and Potential, the design of the built world has enormous untapped potential to drive positive and necessary social and environmental change.

Roughly 20% of Canada’s architects weighed in

In 2017, 2018 and 2019 we took this framework across the country and hosted a series of consultation workshops with architects and clients from coast to coast to coast designed to stimulate a conversation about why architecture matters, its potential for achieving better outcomes and what’s currently limiting that potential. Participants were drawn together by a shared sense of frustration that Canada’s architecture was being limited in its capacity to respond to the rapidly evolving needs of Canadian communities. In a series of workshops attended by over 2,000 architects – roughly 20% of the profession in Canada – we asked participants to consider these broader issues through a framework of value-based perspectives organized into four distinct themes:

People – architecture’s impact on the wellbeing of individuals and groups considering health and happiness, memory and meaning, dignity, inclusion, and social justice, and engagement, empowerment, and reconciliation.

Place – architecture’s impact on both our individual and collective identities focussing on the importance of the land on which a project is built and investigates how we can better respect unique geographic and cultural characteristics.

Prosperity – architecture’s impact on communities of all kinds considering such things as environmental stewardship, sustainable urbanism, equitable development and adaptation and resilience.

Potential – what are the future implications for Canadian architecture and Canada’s place in the world, thinking in terms of architecture as a creative industry, creative collaboration across the many disciplines involved in the design of our communities, research and innovation in design practices and building sciences and education and the future of architecture.

We asked participants to consider what we could do differently

We asked participants to think about whether this value framework was complete enough and to consider what individual architects, the profession and public policy and decision-makers do differently to achieve the full potential of architecture for the betterment of the Canadian built world.

We heard that change is urgently needed

There was enthusiastic support for a focus on People, Place, Prosperity and Potential as a framework for defining a renewed set of expectations for Canadian architecture and the design of our communities. We heard that change is urgently needed if we are to reverse the alarming trend towards the commodification of architecture. We heard that the design of our communities needs to be empowered at all stages of the commissioning of projects in the built environment and at all levels of decision making so the full potential of architecture as an agent of positive social and environmental change can be realized.

We also heard that the very structure of professional practice needs to be reconsidered so that it could be more nimble and responsive to the compelling challenges of our time, achieving social and climate justice, reflecting more diverse, equitable and inclusive communities and the health and well-being of people and the planet. The way that architects are educated, trained, licensed and regulated needs to be rethought so that it can respond to a greatly enlarged definition of what is in the public interest and so it can be more fully served and protected through design leadership.

We heard very plainly that the time for change is NOW, and that the need for change is compelling.

Join us in creating places where all Canadians can thrive. Take our 13-question survey.