Call to Action: The Rise for Architecture Report

Eight years in the making, a new report offers a comprehensive review of the current practice of architecture in Canada, and calls on stakeholders to contribute to an inspired, empowered future.

Background photo by Tom Arban

For the past eight years, a national, volunteer-led committee of architects, educators, advocates and organizations that regulate the architectural profession in Canada have been hosting conversations to learn what Canadians want and need in their communities. This has culminated in a report issued earlier this year that shares a comprehensive review of the current practice of architecture in Canada, with recommended actions for adoption across the profession. The research includes a national poll by the Angus Reid Institute, a public surveyroundtables with the architectural profession, a series of architectural student forums, and independent research on the impact of architecture policies in Europe.

Here are some key excerpts from the report, entitled Architecture in Canada: A Vision for the Future, including its recommendations.


Since 2014, we have been seeking input from both architects and the public to learn what concerns Canadians about the design of their communities and what needs to change. This report outlines a vision for a renewed future as well as a series of objectives and actions to improve the processes and policies that shape how Canada’s communities are designed and built. This report does not represent the end of a process but rather its beginning. It lays out a series of challenges to all those who are involved in building the cities, towns, and villages we live in.

The Rise for Architecture initiative grew out an awareness that, in a rapidly changing world, if we are to be successful in continuing to help address the needs of Canadians in the future, we must be willing to re-imagine the very framework within which architecture is imagined, designed, funded, regulated, and built. Many aspects of this framework have existed, relatively unchanged, for almost three quarters of a century. It is time for change.

This report summarizes the work that we have undertaken over the past several years to understand the driving forces behind an erosion of public confidence. It also lays out a challenge to those actors who have agency in the creation of the built environment to imagine a new paradigm for this important work, one that prioritizes opportunities over risk reduction, value over cost minimization and ultimately the interests of the people and the planet, impacted by what we build. It urges immediate change within the profession of architecture while also calling for the establishment of an Architecture Policy for Canada to articulate a bold vision of what Canadians should expect from the built environment of their communities and to guide all who have a part to play to achieve it.

A key objective is to be a catalyst for the creation of an architecture policy for Canada. We acknowledge that any architecture policy in Canada must respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; advance the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; and acknowledge renewed commitments to nation-to-nation relations between Canada and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

Why is Change Needed Now?

We know that the design of the built environment can be a powerful agent for positive social and environmental change. We also know that the world is changing rapidly and the systems and structures supporting society need to be responsive to change while remaining focused on the collective good. If we approach the ongoing governance of architecture with broader potential in mind, architecture can empower Canadians to meet the pressing challenges of the 21st century; if not, it will be an obstacle to overcome in meeting these challenges. The work of architects is important. This initiative seeks to help renew the profession so that it will continue to serve Canadians to the maximum extent possible. 

The Challenges

The economic impacts of the pandemic, the war in Europe, and climate change are issues that affect all Canadians. There is heightened interest by the profession in the challenges brought about by technological innovation, and by cultural, economic, and social upheaval, and in how the architectural community can effectively partner to bring about positive change.

For governments as well, the status quo is not fully effective. While the profession continues to do an excellent job protecting the public in terms of life safety, there are other governmental priorities, such as responding to the climate crisis or reconciliation, where the full potential of architecture is not yet realized. In this sense the public is not receiving the full potential of the collective efforts of the architectural profession.

Addressing and improving the outcomes related to these, and other, challenges will take a coordinated policy approach over an extended period. The community of design professionals that create our built environment have the knowledge and creativity to engage in collaborative research and cultivate design solutions that support more just, equitable and healthy communities. A formal and coordinated partnership between Governments and industry stakeholders is needed to maximize the potential of architecture to assist communities in moving forward.

The Process 

To develop our recommendations, we started by examining the current state and discussing strengths and weaknesses of the status quo. We examined how the architectural profession in other countries has been dealing with these questions. In the process we identified the potential in an emerging global trend – the development of national architecture policies.

Where a building code sets minimum standards, an Architecture Policy for Canada would set ambitious goals for how the built environment contributes to our social, cultural, and economic wellbeing. It would also establish accountability for politicians, professionals, and the public on how to achieve inclusive, sustainable, and inspiring communities. Its value would be far-reaching.

It became clear that an architecture policy could provide both the opportunity to present a renewed vision for the profession and to galvanize the collective action needed to ensure better outcomes in the future. We also recognized that the development of an Architecture Policy for Canada would be the purview of the Federal Government. However, we recognized that our efforts could lead to much needed conversations within the profession, and with the public, while also outlining the benefits and key aspects that a future policy should address.

To supplement our own research and analysis, we started with a series of consultations within the profession of architecture. Simultaneously, a series of workshops with architecture students took place. Next, we participated in statistically valid public polling and conducted an open online public survey. To round out our information, we commissioned a research paper on the history, evolution, and impact of architecture policies in Europe.

Consultations Within the Profession of Architecture

Rise for Architecture committee members crisscrossed the country talking with architects, and collaborators, about their hopes for a new vision for architecture in Canada. In a series of face-to-face workshops arranged with provincial and territorial associations of architecture as well as local and regional architectural organizations, we challenged architects to reimagine the practice of architecture and the built environment that Canadians inhabit. The conversations touched on 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 is being limited in its capacity to respond to the rapidly evolving needs of Canadian communities. In total, these workshops were attended by over 1,500 architects and members of the profession—roughly 15% of the profession in Canada.

Key observations from the feedback received during the consultations within the profession identified the strong support for critical needed changes including:

  • There is strong belief that an Architecture Policy for Canada is needed and that it would have far-reaching benefits for all Canadians.
  •  There is consistent concern about need to accept greater responsibility with respect to reconciliation with indigenous people and thus a foundational acknowledgement of our responsibilities related to building on unceded and all traditional indigenous lands is needed.
  •  Issues of equity need to be foregrounded, including a need to strengthen commitments around inclusivity within the profession, for its processes and products of its designs.
  •  The profession needs to make stronger commitments in response to the climate crisis.
  •  The recommendations, as well as any potential architecture policies, need to recognize the value of Canada-wide approaches while respecting the strength of regional distinctiveness.
  •  Perception that the issues being considered are more relevant or biased towards urbanized areas. The importance of ‘building’ community in remote, rural, and suburban environments is also critical.
  •  There is a need to raise public literacy around issues of quality and performance of architecture, including broad recognition of the benefit of early (childhood) education about architecture.
  •  Strengthened national voices are needed for architecture, including those for advocacy, regulation, and education.
  •  The culture within the profession of architecture, and the schools of architecture, needs to evolve to eliminate unhealthy practices and be fully grounded on principles of equity and respect.
  •  The profession needs a stronger commitment to consistently encouraging and facilitating the involvement of the community in design processes and decision-making.
  •  Long-term life-cycle costs and impacts need to be given far greater importance in the decisions leading to new buildings being built.
  •  Public procurement processes need to shift to be more value(s) based and public interest focused.
  •  Architects need to strengthen their commitment to putting the needs of people (building users as well as the broader community) first.

The Voice of Students of Architecture

To engage students, and thus future practitioners, in the conversation, the Rise for Architecture initiative was extended to the Canadian Architecture Forums on Education (CAFÉs). Starting 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. 

Five top concerns emerged from Canadian architecture schools:

  •  Climate change and environmental stewardship
  •  Meaningful community engagement and long-term social value
  •  Equity and inclusion
  •  Public health and personal well-being
  •  Culturally supportive and regionally appropriate design

Independent Polling

In January of 2022 the Angus Reid Foundation was commissioned to complete a national poll based on a survey of a randomized sample of nearly 1,900 Canadian adults asking a variety of key questions focused on a deeper understanding of how the issues raised in the professional consultation are seen by the public. 

The results are detailed in a summary report prepared by Angus Reid. Canadians want more inclusive communities that are welcoming for everyone, and improvements to accountability for creating them. Canadians are nearly unanimous in prioritizing accessibility (96%), aesthetic beauty (92%), and sustainability (90%) in new building and infrastructure developments. They are also widely supportive of new roles which would be responsible for encouraging better design outcomes, such as a Chief Architect or similar title, in both their community (70%) and province (56%).

Three quarters of Canadians say culture and heritage should be key considerations in community design. Yet almost 30% don’t see themselves and their culture reflected in their community, with visible minorities and Indigenous far less likely than Caucasian Canadians to feel this way. Only 11% of Canadians believe their communities are doing a really good job of protecting the environment.

Research also shows that a well-designed built environment helps to create sustainable, socially equitable, and inspiring communities. And yet, in Canada, we haven’t always considered this. The poll found that 51% of Canadians say development in their community is poorly planned. A very telling statistic is that only 46% of Canadians asked have ever provided feedback about a proposed development in their community, and among those that had, only 7% felt their voice made a difference; 56% felt that when they did provide feedback, they were not listened to at all.

Public Survey

Following the Angus Reid opinion poll, Rise for Architecture developed an in-depth online survey, which was circulated through a variety of social media channels. Over 1,110 individuals responded to the survey and provided an extensive collection of over 8,000 detailed comments. Respondents made clear the challenges they see facing their communities, concerns about the people and processes that shape their communities, and their desires for inspiring spaces.

Key findings include:

  •  Almost 65% of respondents were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the decision-making processes that shape their communities.
  •  50% of respondents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the performance of the people who design and plan their communities,
  •  76% of respondents support the need for better policies to guide the planning and design of our communities, including the development of an Architecture Policy for Canada.

Collectively the public polling and survey confirmed the need for change and serves as a wake-up call for the profession, its institutions, and governments.

Independent Research

The development and implementation of architecture policies in Europe over the last 30 years demonstrates their general effectiveness in promoting well-designed environments. 28 administrations in the European Union have an official architectural policy at the national level, plus Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Despite differences in character and jurisdiction, all policies seek to raise awareness of the role of architecture in creating high-quality living environments. According to researcher João Bento, all policies are underpinned by three main shared principles: (1) sustainability, or quality of the environment; (2) aesthetics, or quality of experience; and (3) inclusion, or social value, affordability, and accessibility.

Moreover, all documents encompass a broad notion of architecture, meaning “not only buildings, but also public spaces and all built elements that compose human settlements.” 

What We Heard 

Canadians want more welcoming, inclusive communities—and more accountability for creating them.  

Canadians also recognize that architecture’s full potential for positive social and environmental change can only be achieved when projects are commissioned on a strong, public interest-driven framework. All decision makers have a role to play. 

We heard that our profession’s governance needs to remain nimble and responsive to the constantly evolving challenges of our time. To achieve this, our governance processes need to be reviewed. 

Similarly, the way architects are educated, trained, licensed, and regulated needs to adapt so that our skills and experience are appropriate for an expanded definition of the public interest. In short, Canadians broadly support the development of an Architecture Policy for Canada.

A collective effort is required to achieve our vision of an inspiring future where all Canadians are supported by and are empowered to guide the design of their communities, where social and environmental justice shape every design decision, and where architecture is leveraged to celebrate diverse cultures, to lift the human spirit and contribute to a prosperous future. This collective effort will benefit all Canadians.

How do we get there?

Bold actions are required to achieve our vision. Some of these actions will be best led by individuals, or individual organizations, and others will require meaningful ongoing collaboration between a broad range of organizations and stakeholders. This requires creating new partnerships both within the profession and between the profession and governments. This is what is needed so that all Canadians receive the lasting benefits of better-designed communities.

It is important to acknowledge that much good work is already being done, by many within the profession in Canada, that is focused on improving many of the outcomes desired by these actions. Identifying the need for these actions is not intended to diminish the value of the work already being done but rather to identify that more is needed, and that a broader and more coordinated response is in the public interest.

The actions needed vary in terms of scale and potential impact. This is to be expected given the complex and intersecting nature
of architecture. We have developed a series of key recommendations or themes that capture the most fundamental need for change. It is these that are most pivotal for the future of architecture in Canada.

We call on  all stakeholders to:

1 Renew the governance relationships between organizations within the profession, including regulators, Schools, and the RAIC, as well as with governments. 

The key organizations that serve the public and the profession, such as the regulators, the schools of architecture and advocacy organizations including the RAIC, have a responsibility to collaborate and work together to support the advancement of the profession in the public interest. While some aspects of these intersecting relationships are constructive and effective, many are not. To fulfill our shared responsibility, a new and coordinated working relationship needs to be defined and established. This renewed relationship is to be based upon mutual support and recognition of the unique ways that each stakeholder organization contributes to better communities, and the ultimate aim of these collective efforts being in support of ambitions far greater than any one organization.

2 Collaborate to achieve the goal of an Architecture Policy for Canada. 

Our consultations confirm that there is broad support, within both the profession and the public, for the creation of better policies to shape the built environment including consistently strong support for the creation of an architecture policy for Canada. This remains a key objective and achieving this will require coordination and collaboration by all industry partners. The process of obtaining a commitment from governments followed by further consultation and development will be lengthy. The professions’ governing organizations can play a key role, and this will require ongoing commitment, support, and collaboration. 

3 Expand the definition of public interest. 

While the range of professional responsibilities is wide, the emphasis for professional regulation is on conduct related to public interest. For this purpose, public interest tends to relate to life-safety and building code issues. While these elements remain critical, the impact of architecture extends far beyond these narrower issues. It is time to challenge this fundamental assumption that underpins professional conduct and hold us to a higher standard. Truly responding to the public interest should include having positive impact on a more complete range of factors that we influence.  

4 Commit to dramatically improving equity within the profession.

It is understood that the profession is not reflective enough of the diversity of the community it serves. There are many reasons for this. However, this is not the time to focus on the constraints of the past. It is time to move forward with a clear goal of building a more equitable and diverse profession. This will involve reversing the long-standing gender imbalance as well as addressing a more complete range of equity imbalances. This also includes addressing issues such as the prevalence of unfair labour practices within some areas of the profession and the unique challenges faced by foreign trained architects. Equity issues within the profession extend beyond those specifically identified above. A comprehensive response is needed that not only addresses these issues but also seeks to identify and eliminate existing and future barriers and systemic problems impacting equity. 

5 Facilitate the meaningful involvement of the public in the processes shaping their communities. 

While public consultation has long been present in many architectural projects, we have heard repeatedly about the need for much more significant and meaningful involvement by those utilizing and impacted by the built environment. The profession must shift its mindset and recognize that the broader social justice potential and responsibilities, impacted by architecture, can only be addressed with recognition that the voice of the user is a fundamental requirement. Achieving this will require a broad commitment from practitioners and support of all the institutions within the profession. 

6 Make stronger commitments as individual Architects, Technologists and Firms to contribute to solutions to the big social and environmental challenges of our time. 

There are many actions that can be undertaken by individual architects and architecture firms independently that will improve the positive impact architecture has on significant social challenges.  These include challenges such as the climate crisis, reconciliation, equity and inclusion, and housing affordability. We can commit to greater attention to these issues without the need for intervention by governments or regulators. What is required is collaboration and a shared commitment.

In addition to the key recommendations, there are many other needed changes that require action. We have organized these actions by category of who should be involved and/or take the lead in pursuing them. 

Actions for the entirety of the profession will require collaboration among the regulators (through ROAC), the schools of architecture (through CCUSA) and the key advocacy organizations (such as the RAIC). These groups should work together to identify how best to collaborate on implementation and who should take the lead on each initiative. Furthermore, while these actions are written with the profession of architecture in mind, they apply generally to and will require broader collaboration with the larger professional community engaged on the design of the built environment. 

We call on the entirety of the architectural profession to: 

 1 Strengthen collaboration and working relationship between the key stakeholders: the regulators, the schools and advocacy organizations. 

 2 Strengthen collaboration and working relationship between the full range of allied professional and stakeholder organizations related to the built environment. 

 3 Develop and implement strategies to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the profession. 

 4 Develop strategies to integrate Indigenous design perspectives and knowledge in response to the TRC Calls to Action. 

 5 Commit to a more urgent response to the climate crisis. 

 6 Participate in increasing the integration of education and experiential learning with the objective of streamlining pathways to licensure, including the consideration of expanding broadly experienced and Syllabus programs. 

 7 Examine the effectiveness of limiting architectural professional degrees to Masters level programs. 

 8 Evaluate and consider the adequacy and capacity within the educational system for both professional and technical degree programs to ensure that Canada has a sustainable level of architects and technologists. 

 9 Invest in ongoing public education and awareness campaigns aimed at imparting the importance of high-quality built environments. 

10 Advocate with the Federal Government for the development and implementation of an Architecture Policy for Canada with the intention of improving accountability for architecture within government. 

 11 Establish and support an ongoing mechanism for identifying and implementing change as the needs of society evolve in the future.

We call on the Regulators of the Profession to: 

 1 Review and expand the definition of public interest to be inclusive of broader societal and environmental concerns and extend expectations of professional conduct accordingly. 

 2 Review and adjust regulatory frameworks and policies to be more agile, timely, and responsive to the rapidly changing needs of Canadians and the Profession. 

 3 Ensure appropriate ongoing funding and support to sustain national regulatory committees and initiatives including the supports necessary to ensure ongoing succession of volunteers and protection of institutional knowledge. 

 4 Review and identify unnecessary barriers to licensure and implement changes to reduce them and streamline processes. 

 5 Review and share best practices for ensuring equitable access to licensure. 

 6 Define and defend an appropriate public interest advocacy role for the regulators. 

 7 Seek to eliminate unnecessary barriers to innovative forms of practice and emerging business models. 

 8 To the extent possible, encourage and facilitate membership, by architects, in local and national advocacy organizations. 

 9 Review unnecessary barriers that restrict fair public comment by architects on architecture. 

We call on Schools of Architecture to: 

 1 Enhance and diversify collaboration and knowledge exchange between academic and professional sectors. 

 2 Enhance and increase interdisciplinary collaborations and learning experiences within the university and with other educational institutions. 

 3 Re-imagine design studio cultures to foster collaborative skills. 

 4 Work with the regulators to assess and enhance professional practice courses. 

 5 Collaborate with regulators to create more agile systems of accreditation. 

 6 Collaborate with regulators to create more agile systems of licensure. 

 7 Review recruitment and admissions process for accessibility and non-traditional students. 

 8 Increase focus on teaching human behaviour and social outcomes within the curriculum. 

We call on advocacy organizations, including the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, to: 

 1 Increase membership and engagement with registered architects. 

 2 Consider modifying the RAIC Board composition to increase understanding and awareness of current regulatory issues and constraints. 

 3 Support the establishment of additional organizations to fill gaps in advocacy or expand range of advocacy to include the business interests of architects. 

 4 Better define and communicate the limits of its advocacy mandate. 

 5 Redirect more funding to its core advocacy functions.

We call on individual architects, technologists, and architectural firms to: 

 1 Commit to honouring a broader understanding of the public interest, through the quality of design and individual and practice behaviour. 

 2 Commit to active engagement of communities in design processes and outcomes and to strengthen diverse and equitable access to consultations. 

 3 Use their agency and voice to be stronger advocates for positive social outcomes. 

 4 Commit to a more urgent response to the climate crisis through the actions of their firms and the outcomes of their design work.  

 5 Commit to fair labour practices within the profession. 

 6 Commit to fair fee practices within the profession. 

 7 Commit to the ongoing support, mentorship, and development of future architects. 

 8 Improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruitment, hiring and promotion practices. 

 9 Pursue every design regardless of scale or prestige as an opportunity to improve the health and happiness of people and the planet. 

10 Advocate, at the local level, for the need for better policies on Architecture, including an Architecture Policy for Canada. 

We call on all levels of Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments to: 

 1 Create comprehensive architecture policies, including an Architecture Policy for Canada, that operate across all agencies of government that set out enhanced expectations from the built environment and strategies to achieve them. 

 2 Leverage the significant impact architecture makes in Canadian communities, including supporting the environment, economy, and Canadian cultures. 

 3 Recognize the potential of public projects to drive change and commit to delivering these projects as exemplars. 

 4 Enhance research, innovation and education that develops and supports Canadian expertise as world leaders in the design of inclusive, resilient, and sustainable built environments. 

 5 Develop education programs within grade school curriculums to encourage greater literacy of the built environment. 

 6 Strengthen programs that support the preservation of cultural heritage, retrofit and adaptive reuse. 

 7 Review and strengthen building codes and policies on the built environment in response to the climate crisis in view of national and international sustainability commitments. 

 8 Clarify and strengthen accountability for architectural quality within government ministries and departments. 

 9 Review and improve the effectiveness of procurement practices to support broader positive social and environmental outcomes. 

10 Contribute to the celebration of the world-class quality of Canadian Architecture (promote Canadian architectural expertise abroad). 

 11 Rethink the definition of “public interest” to ensure that the profession has responsibility for the impact of their work on the health and wellness of people and the planet.


Our built environment is a powerful agent for positive social and environmental change. As the world rapidly evolves, the systems and structures supporting society need to respond—and they must focus on the collective good. By renewing the social contract between the architectural profession and the public, Canadians will be better equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Inclusive, sustainable, and inspiring communities are achievable. The time to act is now.

To read the full report, visit