Faculty of Environmental Design established

The Faculty of Environmental Design was established in 1971

The Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS) was established at the University of Calgary in 1971 in response to a campaign to establish a professional architecture program in Alberta to help meet the demands of a rapidly growing province.  

The concept of “environmental design” emerged in the 1950s as a way of uniting the various design disciplines together across a broad range of scales, from product design, through building, city, and landscape design. By focusing on understanding the contexts (including the built, urban, social, cultural, etc.) that inform the complex challenges facing today’s designers, the faculty’s founding principles draw from a commitment to interdisciplinarity, bringing together a wide range of experts in a non-departmental faculty to develop comprehensive design solutions.

Environmental design is a distinct way of tackling problems, as it relies on creativity and analysis, art and science, brain-storming and technology in a form-based, studio-centred methodology. For 45 years, EVDS has been broadly engaged in the relationships between humans and the environments they inhabit and create. 

Conceived as a graduate-level design unit, the Master of Environmental Design (MEDes) degree was offered in three fields of study (architecture, planning and environmental science under founding Dean William T. Perks, who served from 1971 to 1981. 

Throughout the intervening years, EVDS’ programs have evolved to meet the needs of its community. In 1981, a fourth field of study (industrial design) was added to the MEDes program, further enriching interdisciplinary inquiry across a new range of scales and contexts. By 1998, EVDS successfully introduced the first Environmental Design research PhD program in Canada and established specific professional degree designations for the Master of Architecture and Master of Planning degrees to complement the original MEDes degree. Urban Design was added as field of study under MEDes in 2003, establishing another innovative first for the faculty.  

By 2007, EVDS underwent another major transition, redesigning its MEDes degree as a post-professional Master’s research degree to accompany the PhD and streamlining its professional degree programs to focus on the Master of Architecture and the Master of Planning.  In 2015 a new professional program, Master of Landscape Architecture admitted its first students.  

Over the past 45 years, EVDS has grown, evolved, reinvented itself and made its mark in locally, provincially and internationally by the pioneering and creative work of its graduates and faculty. EVDS faculty and alumni have pioneered new areas of professional practice and technologies and have become leaders and award-winners in activity ranging from designing human-wildlife interactions to designing human-computer interactions, to the construction of new cities in China to the design of great streets and buildings, manufactured products, digital design technologies, and sustainable urban environments.  

In recent years, EVDS has increasingly focused on community outreach, partnering with a range of community, public and private sector organizations to address a wide range of needs and problems through design, based on the principles of access, resilience, health and social equity.

Today, EVDS offers professional degrees in architecture (MArch), landscape architecture (MLA), and planning (MPlan) and post-professional research degrees in environmental design (MEDEs and PhD). Under Dean and Professor Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, EVDS remains true to their interdisciplinary principles, continuing their essential role as advocates for good design.