University of Calgary “City-Building Design Lab” enriches East Village through education, innovation and collaboration
University of Calgary’s City Building Design Lab (CBDLab) opened in East Village’s Castell Building—former site of the Calgary Central Library—last April. A component of U of C’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), the CBDLab has served as an in-situ ideas incubator, education platform and community events venue for nearly a year.
located on the western edge of East Village, the lab gives students valuable opportunities to connect with the design, development and construction communities as they explore ways to make cities more resilient, vibrant, healthy and equitable.
In partnership with CMLC—which is providing support through a five-year lease agreement in the Castell Building—the CBDLab is more than an educational institution. In addition to being a classroom for SAPL graduate students, housing a rotating cohort of 60 students at a time, the lab is also a public gallery featuring work by students, in-the-field practitioners and international thinkers. As an event venue for SAPL and community gatherings, the space accommodates up to 300 people.
According to SAPL faculty dean John Brown, the positioning of the CBDLab in East Village is ideal, “akin to having a faculty of medicine located right next to a hospital, giving the students a first-hand look at the very issues they are learning about while seeing how their ideas work in real time.”
Proximity to the city’s heart—with city hall, municipal services and professional office space all located within blocks—allows the CBDLab to benefit from a cross-pollination between today’s learners and the city officials implementing urban policies: a win-win for students, planners and the city’s future.
“Cities don’t happen by accident,” says John. “The realities about how we live, work and move about the city inform—and are themselves shaped by—the city’s function, its design and its ability to adapt. Engaging people through a practical education and empowering them to get creative in thinking about some of the social issues plaguing cities today is a unique opportunity. The CBDLab is making the most of that opportunity by connecting students with city staff and industry professionals and allowing them to come up with well-informed, relevant solutions, unconstrained by political agendas or vested interests.”
The breadth of events hosted by the lab is wide-ranging and includes lectures by practitioners in architecture, city planning, social work and engineering (to name a few); exhibitions showcasing emerging technologies, concepts and designs; book clubs; meetings of professional associations; and other events that enable, showcase and promote city-building.
The CBDLab has welcomed over 7,100 individuals over 125 events since opening 10 months ago, and the momentum shows no signs of slowing—good news for Calgary and for the initiatives shaping its future.
Information on upcoming CBDLab events—including Design Camps for budding designers aged nine to 17—can be found on the CBDLab website.