Just City ponders problems facing Calgary in the future

What makes a Just City: Matt Knapik, centre right, speaks to Dustin Couzens, at right, during question period at the University of Calgary’s Just City panel at the old Central Library on Jan. 15. The panel featured discussions on design, local city planning, income inequality and automation. (Photo by Lou De Asis/The Press)

Calgary’s architectural and design community is on the hunt for solutions to solve local income inequality, flood mitigation and automation problems.

More than 100 people were in the audience for the Just City panel that took place at the former Central Library downtown on Jan. 15.

The event was part of the Design Matters lecture series, which was organized by the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.

It was one of 15 events across Canada held to mark the release of Canadian Modern Architecture – 1967 to the Present, which was co-edited by panel moderator Graham Livesey, a professor at the university’s master of architecture program.

“We use the launch of the book as a vehicle to drive a local conversation, so today’s event is not really about the book,” Livesey said.

Three people from the local architectural community participated in the panel.

Questions, anyone? Jessie Andjelic answers a question from the audience during the University of Calgary’s Just City panel at the old Central Library on Jan. 15. The panel featured discussions on design, local city planning, income inequality and automation. (Photo by Lou De Asis/The Press)

Jessie Andjelic is an architect from the SPECTACLE Bureau of Architecture and Urbanism.

In 2019, she received the Young Architect’s Prize from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

One issue Andjelic spoke about was Calgary’s income inequality.

“Bryon Miller published a report on the change in character and geographical distribution of neighbourhood incomes in Calgary over the last 40 years.”

In the report, Calgary’s communities were divided into three different ‘cities’ where income was increasing, stable, or decreasing.

“They found that Calgary has become the second-most unequal city in Canada after Toronto based on neighbourhood income inequality characteristics,” Andjelic said.

City problems on the agenda: More than 100 people were in the audience during the University of Calgary’s Just City panel at the old Central Library on Jan. 15. The panel featured discussions on design, local city planning, income inequality and automation. (Photo by Lou De Asis/The Press)

Matt Knapik of O2 Planning and Design brought up another issue that affects planning within Calgary’s borders – the Bow River.

“The Bow River is a wonderful example of a dilemma that we face in the city because it’s one of our greatest assets, and at the same time, it’s one of our most potent threats,” he said.

“Many people have heard about a 100-year flood in Calgary, and I used to think it meant that flooding would come every century or so.”

But Knapik said the reference is more like odds of having a big flood, and the dice are rolled on those odds every year.

“The flood we saw in 2013 was somewhere between a 70-year and a 100-year flood depending on where you were along the river.”

He said there is a five-per-cent chance of a one in a 1,000-year flood event happening in Calgary over the next century.

The Bow River is a wonderful example of a dilemma that we face in the city because it’s one of our greatest assets, and at the same time, it’s one of our most potent threats. – Matt Knapik

As for flood mitigation solutions, Knapik said questions surrounding the issue have been asked many times.

“We’ve been asked how do we build as close to, and as far from the river as possible in private spaces and we’ve looked at flood barriers in Bowness.”

Dustin Couzens from the Modern Office of Design and Architecture expressed his thoughts on how automation and digital fabrication technology are changing the way structures are built.

“Companies like Katerra are the contractor’s response to harnessing digital fabrication, and they’re basically a one-shop stop where they are absorbing architecture firms and engineers,” Couzens said.

“In my mind, they’re just exacerbating the ability to produce more quickly and there doesn’t seem to be any sensibilities in looking at innovation or creativity,” he said.

The Design Matters lecture series will continue until April.

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