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Laurentian University researchers to participate in $8.6M national SSHRC Partnership Grant

Project to address quality in public environments, urban spaces, buildings and landscapes.

(September 2, 2022) - To impact the everyday lives of Canadians across the country, we require a diversity of ideas and researchers. This unique Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) project of unprecedented scale in the design disciplines in Canada will see 14 universities, 70 researchers and over 68 public and private organizations at the municipal, provincial and national levels come together in partnership. They will address the diversity of public environments that impact Canadians in urban spaces, buildings and landscapes. This collaborative five-year Partnership Grant (PG) “Quality in Canada’s Build Environment: Roadmaps to Equity, Social Value and Sustainability,” includes three Laurentian University principal researchers, and is funded in the amount of $8.6M ($2.5M from SSHRC and $6.1M from partners, including $4.2M through in-kind contributions). 

Each research cluster is composed of a university, a city, citizen groups, and a professional association who are engaged in awards programs. This is repeated across the country at 14 universities. In Sudbury, the SSHRC research cluster is supported by multiple local community partners including the City of Greater Sudbury, the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury and Uptown Sudbury Community Action Network (CAN). The full list of official co-applicants, collaborators and partners across the nation can be found on SSHRC’s results platform

The overall PG will stimulate a vital dialog demonstrating how those who create the built public environments across Canada can contribute to a redefinition of quality, beginning with awarded buildings since 2000. The goal is to move Canada’s built environment toward heightened equity, more social value and greater sustainability at a critical moment for our societies and for our planet. 

The PG program has three aims:

  • 1. Analyzing the current limitations of environmental norms and sustainability models to bring us closer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • 2. Co-creating new paths to equity, diversity and inclusion in the built environment;
  • 3. Defining new frameworks for the definition of quality so as to enhance the social value of the built environment through roadmaps to quality.

While many Laurentian members, including undergraduate and graduate students, will contribute to this partnership, Dr. Terrance Galvin (site leader), Prof. Shannon Bassett, and Dr. Thomas Strickland are principally involved. All are eager to collaborate and anticipate that this partnership will introduce many opportunities of involvement for students, especially those enroled at the McEwen School of Architecture. In fact, this interdisciplinary and collaborative effort will stimulate training, internships and connections between hundreds of students and communities of practice across Canada.

Dr. Galvin, Full Professor and Founding Director of the McEwen School of Architecture, is past President of the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB), and has served on numerous boards governing architectural education and practice in Canada. Galvin’s extensive applied research regarding local technologies and cultural sustainability has led to collaborations with communities in Peru, India, Thailand, Mexico and Canada. “Laurentian University and professors at the McEwen School of Architecture are proud to be part of this SSHRC Partnership Grant, with its pan-Canadian consortium. We’re actively working together on our five-year research cluster in Greater Sudbury, and hope to provide insight and make change regarding Material Culture and Social Prosperity for Northern Ontario with both local and national partners in this endeavor.”

Assistant Professor, Bassett, trained as an Architect and Urban Designer with a focus on ecological urbanism, is also the Advisory Chair and Co-Founder of BEA(N) - Building Equality in Architecture North. She brings expertise to this partnership with her design research on ecological urbanism, which is an approach that places nature at the center of the design process to create solutions to social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the 21st Century city. “We are interested in the idea that what we as humans build, is not just a building. It is part of a larger landscape, either cultural or ecological.” 

Dr. Strickland, Assistant Professor, explores the capacity for the built environment to be sustenance for human rights with an emphasis on quality of life and health. His research in health and the built environment received support from CIHR Strategic Research Initiative and the Canadian Center for Architecture. Strickland’s trans-disciplinary approach draws from Material Culture studies, or, as he describes it, “how we make, consume, interact, behave and create rituals with the things around us.” Recent research collaborations include exhibitions with Jiwar Creació i Societat, the ACATHI Foundation, Better Beginnings Better Futures, Point de Vu, and the Ontario Association of Architects. “The wide-reach of this partnership is immediately impactful, I’m looking forward to next steps.”

Outcomes of the Partnership Grant include “roadmaps to quality” (guidebooks, analyses of exemplary case studies, resources for design thinking and proposals for public policies, etc.). These will constitute a bilingual “Living Atlas on Quality in the Built Environment” set on a digital platform created with the support of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The Living Atlas will offer open access to repertories of award-winning projects, case studies, comparative analyses, scientific resources and articles, interpretative didactic podcasts, analogical maps and visualizations.

The SSHRC PG just had its first 3-day conference with all 14 research sites at Université de Montréal from August 24-26. William Morin, a local Anishinaabe artist, educator, activist and community leader was invited to represent the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury. An experienced professor Morin has worked as an Indigenous cultural advisor at the McEwen School of Architecture, where he will continue this fall as a sessional professor. At the conference, Morin echoed an “inclusive” message presented by other Indigenous participants, citing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the 94 calls to action from that report. He stressed the need for all Canadians to be better informed of our shared history, and to teach that new knowledge at all levels of our daily lives. “There is a direct relationship between housing and our health index.” Offering the suggestion to architects and educators present, Morin proposed; “if a house or building goes up [in the city], one is also built on a reserve…. how is that for ‘Reconciliation'?” We need to work together for all Canadians to have a liveable community to thrive in.

Research on case studies and student seminars will continue at each University this fall and winter. The overall Partnership Grant’s PI is Dr. Jean-Pierre Chupin, a Canada Research Chair at Université de Montréal.