(O1) Manifesto

Who We Are

Advocates for Equitable Design Education (AEDE) is a student-run collective at the University of Calgary School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), which is dedicated to the advancement of critical pedagogy in design and recovery of dialogues minimized in current design practices.

We actively challenge hegemonic perspectives, holding accountable this educational institution to engage meaningfully with issues of equity and inclusion.

Our Aims

AEDE is compelled to broadening the social and political consciousness of SAPL students, faculty, and staff, recognizing:

      • the complicity of design and designers in reinforcing systems of oppression that reproduce socio-spatial and political conditions that undermine people’s control over their built environment
      • the historical and ongoing role of the design profession in aiding and abetting capital and state violence to systematically create conditions that disempower, dehumanize, and enforce structural barriers upon Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC), members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and two-spirit (LGBTQIA2+) community, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), and all visible minorities.
      • the prevailing forces within design institutions that deprive marginalized peoples of attaining knowledge, skill sets, and power to achieve justice and equity in their communities
      • as well as negligence and institutional fragility being cause to delays in addressing long-standing issues of diversity and equity  


The practice of design is not inert, nor does it occur in a vacuum. Issues of socio-spatial discrimination cannot be disentangled from architectural and planning exercises. Understanding the nuanced intersections between design, economy, politics, society, and ecology are integral to a sensitive and informed approach to environmental design.

To contend with the problematic legacy of design is of critical importance to cultivate a generation of practitioners who are knowledgeable, empathetic, and passionate advocates for a more just future.

We believe:

Design must be an empathetic and emancipatory tool for justice, which serves to create ennobling and positive experiences for all.

Architecture and planning must be understood as a complex system of economic, political, socio-cultural, and ecological imperatives. Our design pedagogy must address deep-rooted societal issues by questioning underlying conditions that shape the physical environment, and ally itself in the fight to uplift the living and working conditions of the marginalized and oppressed. Design must be empathetic, not vain.

Architecture and design for human needs must be humanized, personal, and not defaulted to the biased environmental comfort of a white, cis-gendered, heteronormative male body. Differing sexualities, gender non-binary identities, abilities, race and culture need to be at the fore of design inquiries. Instead of serving the neo-capitalist regime, design must evolve out of this complacency and develop new avenues in which to enrich life on earth.

Intersectionality is necessary to understand critical issues in design such as housing, food injustice, and ecological breakdown with a nuanced understanding of the ways in which class, race, and gender intersect and overlap to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege.
Intersectionality poses as a tool to further inform the underlying bias and injustice in design at both the institutional and professional level. By further understanding where the discrimination and privilege is rooted, we can remove the barriers and better integrate and address class, race, and gender within the design process. When considering context within a design process, one must go beyond location and further understand the existing conditions that surround housing affordability, food injustice, and the ecological makeup of the area. These factors closely accompany the urban framework that outlines the economic barriers people face and how design is interlaced into that systematically. 

It is imperative for our design pedagogy to adopt an intersectional analysis of complex issues in the built environment, including the existential threat of climate change and how the magnitude of threats of ecological breakdown vary based on geography, class, race, and gender. The intrinsic relationship of environmental ills and social injustice must be considered by challenging the systems in place that perpetuate these global inequities of power. Therefore, the pursuit of architecture and “city-building”, if to pursue goals of sustainability and justice, must challenge and renegotiate its collusion with the neoliberal state, speculative finance, the construction industry, and real estate.
The collaborative process is strengthened through critical research and open knowledge sharing.
Conducting unbiased and thorough research throughout the collaborative design process with a critical lens allows for an enhanced process that is reinforced by evidence and open knowledge. Further collaboration with supporting research is necessary within the field of design, as successful designs are cultivated through diversity and exhaustive understanding of context. When designing on land that holds meaning to Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and other marginalized communities, there will be a collaborative effort to create a team that represents the communities that will be affected as well as ensure their opinions are heard throughout the process. 

Sharing knowledge is a cornerstone of capacity-building and fostering collaboration. Developing a consistently maintained repository of resources, which includes readings, precedents, organizations, etc., on topics pertaining to design justice, race, and decolonization that is accessible to students and faculty is important to open distribution of knowledge. Encouraging critical spaces [book club, salon-style discussions] can help people become more comfortable continuing dialogue about design’s role in perpetuating injustices. As designers it is imperative to the growth of our field that we continue to be open to listening, learning, and growing. We applaud studio culture for its purpose of collaboration and the bonds created as a result of co-creative practices; there is an opportunity for this collaborative environment to reach beyond the projects we work on. This collaborative environment can lend itself to making research and knowledge more accessible as we come together to teach and learn from one another.
A commitment to design justice necessitates an articulation of new politics, where new modes of operating within the political economy must aim for the redistribution of global and local resources and access.
The coercions of capital and other economic imperatives that depend on expropriation, exploitation, and dispossession have long shaped the discipline of environmental design. Designers must make vocal and clear statements about their values and their commitments to change, supported by direct action, public engagement, and lobbying for more equitable outcomes in the built environment. Design is a cultural practice, which means it is necessarily political in its application, whether that is made explicit or not.
Fostering transparency and institutional accountability is important to change cultural attitudes across generations.
In order to create change, we must change our structures and systems. We are committed to ensuring that faculty at the school continue to be aware of issues that affect the student body, and will work with the SAPL Student’s Association to gather student feedback for improving their educational experience and address those suggestions with the leadership team on their behalf. We are committed to having consistent conversation with the faculty to ensure that inclusionary measures to support designers and thinkers from differing backgrounds are taken.
The critical framing of, re-evaluation, decolonization and re-articulation of the architectural canon taught in design school is necessary.
We call for institutions to publicly acknowledge their role in the intersecting, layered, and systemic inequalities perpetuated through their social, cultural, and academic production. We advocate for a critical framing of the architectural canon to examine the often omitted legacies of slavery and settler colonialism in the production of Western cities, art, landscapes, architecture and design. The contextualization of problematic theorists and practitioners deeply embedded in this Western canon must be immediately addressed by acknowledging their morally suspect statements and works.

The complicity of designers, urbanists, and developers in aiding and abetting gentrification practices that alienate and result in the dispossession of space and displacement of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and other marginalized communities needs to be critically assessed. Destructive practices, unsustainable forms, materials, and abusive labour exploitation must be reevaluated  in the production of architecture and urban spaces. Re-articulation of the canon to embrace non-Western, indigenous, and decolonized knowledge is essential to diversifying the body of knowledge and to start working towards design equity.

Expanding the range of ideas and empowering diverse and critical voices in design is crucial.
Urban justice demands the democratization of environmental design, where people have the tools to assert their “right to the city”, dismantle systemic oppression, reduce disparities, and take action to build a dignified life. We envision design, and design education as an emancipatory and liberatory device that improves the lives of those silenced in society, rather than operating as a tool of colonialism and oppression.

We value forming alliances and emphasizing the plurality of practice, seeing design as a collaboration across disciplines and networks —  as diverse, multi-faceted and multidisciplinary. We strive to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations to gain insight from other fields, especially in social research. We look to promote relationships with local and global institutions that are not predominantly white, that explore research and models of practice that diverge from histories written by white men of the western architectural canon.