Aug. 31, 2022

New degree sets out to design healthier, sustainable, more resilient cities

Bachelor of Design in City Innovation a first for UCalgary’s school of architecture, and Western Canada
Bachelor of Design in City Innovation
School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Tackling society’s most pressing issues is what the first-ever bachelor’s degree offered by the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) is designed to do.

The Bachelor of Design in City Innovation (BDCI), which has just been announced and which will host its first students in the fall of 2023, applies a design-thinking lens and a hands-on multidisciplinary approach to finding solutions to society’s most urgent challenges, says Dr. John Brown, SAPL dean.

  • Photo above: Students will tackle the climate crisis and social injustice through design thinking and by applying a multidisciplinary approach to such problems rooted in the built environment.

“If we look at the big problems and challenges in the world today — climate change and social injustice — they are grounded in the built environment, in the relation between people, and how they interact with the environment, their cities, their spaces and each other. This program came about because we identified that there’s a significant knowledge and skills gap to address these critical challenges,” says Brown.

The BDCI educates students to be literate in the relationship between people and the constructed environment of cities, buildings, and landscapes, and who can then apply those skills to address the social justice and climate change challenges that society is facing today.

These issues stem from our current urban policies, which are gridlocking institutions in 20th-century models of decision-making and impeding the innovation necessary to move forward, says Mary Rowe, president of the Canadian Urban Institute, in expressing her support for the program.

Rowe believes the BDCI has the capacity to buck this trend, adding the program can create future leaders and job-ready students, positioning them to make meaningful contributions to solving today’s complex and wicked urban challenges.

“Now more than ever, our cities require bold leaders trained in 21st-century transdisciplinary urban design,” says Rowe. “As governments, civil society, and private industry struggle to improve the vibrancy, livability, economic health, and sustainability of cities, these skills will be prerequisites for the success of Canada’s cities.”

The BDCI is the first undergraduate degree of its kind in Western Canada, and it’s one that’s badly needed, says Kate Thompson, president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. The expanded thinking and interdisciplinary approach the BDCI will deliver is a critical educational option that is currently missing in Alberta, she adds.

“The wide-reaching inputs to city building (physical, social, political, economic, historical) must be studied so that together our city can emerge as a leader in the world of urban design,” she says.

What the BDCI will deliver also has the potential to make the city more livable, sustainable and prosperous, says Calgary Economic Development President and CEO Brad Parry, as it will not only train innovative thinkers and leaders, but will also help shape a Calgary with more opportunity for home-grown talent and more attractive to external investment, he adds.

“The BDCI degree will generate the skills needed for the design and management of Calgary’s physical and social infrastructure and will promote the pursuance of meaningful careers in shaping better futures for urban areas and their inhabitants,” says Parry.

What sets the BDCI apart for students is a multidisciplinary curriculum delivered through experiential learning in design studios that deal with city innovation at a hands-on level, explains Brown, adding that students will gain skills in design studio, 2D and 3D visualization, history/theory, sustainability studies, entrepreneurship and data science.

“Students will apply the theory they learn in the classroom to real-world problems in the design studios,” says Brown.

Bachelor of Design in City Innovation

Hands-on studio work, tackling society’s pressing problems through design thinking, is at the core of what the BDCI will offer students.

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

For those looking for a stepping stone to a career in architecture, planning or landscape architecture, the BDCI can be customized with a pre-professional concentration in architecture or landscape architecture that prepares you for admission into graduate degrees and eventual licensure as a professional in those fields, explains Brown.

The flexible nature of the program also means that students can customize their education with a minor in public health, social work, business, or data science as well as certificates in sustainability and entrepreneurship. These graduates could go on to advanced degrees to become lawyers, social workers, public health specialists, and data scientists or go straight into careers in the public, private, or non-profit sectors such as public art managers, market research analysts, social programs advisers, neighborhood resource co-ordinators, community development officers, policy analysts, sustainability specialists, and green building analysts, among others.

Application for fall 2023 is now open. Learn more about the BDCI.