Design Matters with Kate Thompson

The latest in this annual 12-part lecture series took us behind some of Calgary’s biggest urban-development projects.

by Deb Cummings
image Courtesy of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation


What does adaptable design look like? By shifting height restrictions, can a parking lot be converted into, say, residential units? What does it take to understand, truly understand, a client’s fears? And who knew that, one day, 800 dogs may reside in East Village when it’s completely built out?

Such were a few of the questions explored during last week’s Design Matters lecture series, led by alumna Kate Thompson, MArch’02, vice-president, Development, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) who also teaches at UCalgary.

As it is, the results are not always what you would expect. From the perspective of the “delicate balance between pushing and listening” that has faced Thompson and her mostly female staff when working on projects from the New Central Library to the revitalization of Calgary’s Rivers District, Thompson gave the packed audience a behind-the-scenes peek at this city’s future.

As Thompson offered an architect’s perspective into a city in flux, the audience at UCalgary’s new City Building Design Lab saw slides of renderings of major upcoming projects including the BMO Centre expansion, a planned extension of 17th Avenue through Stampede Park, the Arts Commons transformation, the Platform Innovation Centre, public art and other projects involving the CMLC. Moderated by Thompson, many of these projects illustrate the shift in how people move through cities and where they live in relation to where they work. The patterns of past generations — you own a car, live in suburbia and commute — are out of step with a future where living centrally and using shared transportation is going to become more common.

That powerful, thoughtful designs can change culture, engage in social activism or map family- or dog-friendly spaces were just some of the takeaways at the event hosted by UCalgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL). With an aim of challenging and informing the community to broaden its thinking on design-related issues, upcoming instalments in the 12-part lecture series will feature another local architect-alumnus, Walker McKinley, BA’90, MArch’96, (Nov. 6) and the Just City panel of alumni (Jan. 15), as well as international designers such as Hernán Díaz Alonso from Los Angeles and Felecia Davis of Pennsylvania.  

Visit the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape for more details on the Design Matters series, and check out the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of the UCalgary Alumni Magazine to learn more about the future of architecture.

Kate Thompson

Courtesy of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

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