Creating a Blueprint for Canada

At the RAIC we start with a basic premise — that a nation’s social and cultural development, wealth creation and economic well being is intrinsically linked to excellence in architecture and urban design. We are not alone, many countries recognize the increasing importance of excellence in architecture and urban design. To support architectural excellence, some countries have developed policies to raise public awareness about the importance of buildings and other structures in their personal, urban, and national lives. Such policies, in turn, serve to inform and assist public authorities in making appropriate decisions about the development of communities and cities. Simply put, good design meets societies’ needs.

From our profession’s perspective, as architects who serve as trusted advisors, our role is holistic, blending diverse requirements and disciplines in a creative process, while serving the public interest and addressing health and safety matters.

The RAIC feels that Canadian citizens must also be integral partners in the creation of the built environment and believes that a design policy will help address, not only the general issues of architecture and urban design that affect all citizens, but also those that are specific to Canada.

In the 2002 final report from the then Prime Minister’s Caucus Task Force on Urban Issues, Canada’s Urban Strategy: A Blueprint for Action, some trends were highlighted that are certain to have a significant impact on our nation’s future.

Continued population growth in urban areas, requiring new infrastructure;

The need for urban revitalization, creating environmentally sustainable communities;

Greater numbers of immigrants, whose diversity will challenge community development;

An aging society, increasing the need for health care, home care, housing, and social services; and,

A critical need for affordable housing in Canada’s major centres.

These are the forces and reasoning on which the RAIC is basing its efforts to create a model architectural policy for Canada.

The RAIC will be working to establish this policy through a consultative process with all stakeholders in the design and construction industry. Beyond the importance of such a policy to the nation, the process will serve to stimulate a partnership among the architectural profession, governments, the construction industry, and Canadians from all walks of life, which will focus on the achievement of excellence in the country’s architecture and urban design.

Part of the discussion will centre on four objectives for architecture and urban design in Canada.

1) Enabling, supporting, and improving the Canadian quality of life;

2) Achieving environmental sustainability;

3) Contributing to and enriching Canadian culture and heritage; and,

4) Promoting innovation and research.

Highlighting and creating awareness about this level of excellence in architecture and urban design in Canada will require a variety of activities. The RAIC hopes that a model architectural policy will:

Encourage public discussion about the role and importance of architecture and urban design in Canadian life;

Inspire diverse interests in communities to participate in architecture, urban design and planning;

Assist various levels of governments in developing appropriate architectural standards and guidelines in their jurisdictions;

Aid all decision-makers involved in building projects to develop best practices; and

Persuade school boards and provincial/territorial departments of education to include architectural and urban issues in curriculum development.

This policy will be a collaborative effort involving the many individuals, groups, organizations, and governments interested in the future of public and private buildings and communities.

As designers of buildings and urban centres, Architects in their holistic role negotiate between human participants-users, developers, decision-makers-and the environment. As well, Architects ensure that buildings and communities are not only durable and beautiful but also include sustainable servicing, supply, and waste processes, using more recyclable and fewer toxic materials in construction; and consuming energy at the lowest possible levels.

The RAIC believes the adoption of an architectural policy by numerous governments and institutions will not only acknowledge the importance of architecture and urban design to Canadians but ultimately improve our quality of life. Canadians must demand excellence in architecture and they must understand that architectural excellence does not only depend on the skill of the Architect, it requires the commitment of all Canadians. Together we weave the fabric of the country’s future and its architecture must come from those who will embrace the final product and pass it from one generation to the next.