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Students bring creative and critical vision to the future of architecture

BY Lisa Landrum
Canadian architecture forums on education graphic

Architecture students from coast to coast are sharing their ideas and demands about the built environment. Their concerns are urgent. Their ambitions will build a better Canada for everyone.

To support their vision and invigorate a broad conversation about building better, Rise for Architecture launched Canadian Architecture Forums on Education (CAFÉs) in 2019. The CAFÉ series brought together representatives from all 12 Canadian university schools of architecture at five campuses in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.

Involving students, professors and extended professional communities, the forums featured presentations and roundtable discussions oriented around questions of how to enhance the quality of the built environment.

The CAFÉ forums wrapped up in March 2020—just before the pandemic shut down in-person gatherings. Yet, takeaways from the CAFÉ sessions are taking off.

  • A CAFÉ Summary Report was published in September 2020.
  • A culminating CAFÉ Capital is planned for Fall 2022. The series is creating dialogue across academic, professional and public sectors, and generating synergies with Rise for Architecture.

Concerns + ambitions of the next generation of architects

CAFÉ spoke to nearly 1,000 architecture students and academic researchers across Canada through consultation events, provocative manifestos and a detailed online survey.

Five top concerns and ambitions emerged from Canadian architecture schools:

1Climate change and environmental stewardshipEngage architecture as a tool for climate action
2Meaningful community engagement and long-term social valueEngage architecture as a tool for social justice
3Equity and inclusionEnable radical diversity in the profession and radical accessibility in the built environment
4Public health and personal well-beingPursue architectures of healing and enjoyment at multiple scales and sensibilities
5Culturally-supportive and regionally-appropriate designSupport holistic design excellence, community-
engaged processes, and Indigenous empowerment

Highlights of the CAFÉ series

These short videos and online exhibitions show diverse ways to discover architecture’s potential:

  • Architecture Is ____ ! – a fun 60-second animated response to the question: How to describe architecture – in just five words?
  • CAFÉ Prairie montage – a 3.5-minute video of key moments from the CAFÉ Prairie forum and Nation-to-Nation conversation on Indigenous principles, perspectives and practices, held at the University of Manitoba on February 28, 2020.
  • Why Canada Needs an Architecture Policy – a 2-minute animation describing the overall CAFÉ initiative and the ambitions of an architecture policy.
  • An Exhibition of 59 Manifestos, by students across Canada, sharing visions, questions and concerns about the future of architecture.
  • A Gallery of event images, news reports and recordings.

People, Place, Prosperity, Potential

What is architecture? Why and how does it matter?

In some ways, architecture is any place where people share in prosperity and realize their potential. In another sense, architecture is a specialized profession serving public interests by designing spaces that fulfill needs, and bring dignity and delight.

To help orient conversations about the far-reaching roles of architecture, the CAFÉ forums used four themes: People, Place, Prosperity and Potential. Read more about the CAFÉ themes here.

These four themes are also guiding Rise for Architecture.

Building sustainable, equitable and engaging communities needs more than strong CAFÉ

The outcomes of the CAFÉ initiative included:

  • Renewed commitments and urgency to design and sustain better built environments.
  • Productive dialogue between academic, professional and public sectors.
  • Community-building and networking among architecture students across Canada.
  • Leadership development and empowerment of the next generation of architects.
  • Enhanced awareness of the interdependence of design excellence, progressive policy, and long-term social value and environmental benefits.

But strong CAFÉ sessions are not enough. If you support a stronger vision for architecture in Canada, follow our movement for opportunities to share your voice.

The Canadian Architecture Forums on Education are led by Dr. Lisa Landrum, University of Manitoba, in partnership with Dr. Anne Bordeleau, University of Waterloo, and the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA).

The forums included: CAFÉ Atlantic at Dalhousie University (Oct. 7, 2019); CAFÉ Québec at Université de Montréal (Nov. 11, 2019); CAFÉ Ontario at Ryerson University (Feb. 6, 2020); CAFÉ Prairie at University of Manitoba (Feb. 28, 2020); and CAFÉ West at University of Calgary (Mar. 12, 2020).

CAFÉ is supported by the Social Sciences Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), by contributions of CCUSA institutions, as well as from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the Regulatory Organizations of Architecture in Canada (ROAC).