Urban design involves the arrangement and design of buildings, public spaces, transportation systems, and services to entire neighbourhoods and the city itself. Good urban design can offer significant benefits to the community, both tangible and intangible, while poor design can have adverse effects environmentally, socially and economically.
Urban Design brings together the many elements and areas of expertise involved in great place-making – land use planning, transportation planning, architecture, landscape design, public art, engineering among others. The effective coordination of these specialties results in the creation of distinctive and cherished places.
Good urban design is an important component in making Calgary a livable place for Calgarians now and in the future. This is supported through the Municipal Development Plan which includes a primary objective in section 2.4 Urban Design:
"Make Calgary a liveable, attractive, memorable and functional city by recognizing its unique setting and dynamic urban character and creating a legacy of quality public and private developments for future generations".
To achieve this objective, the city encourages the use of good urban design across the entire planning continuum.
City-offered urban design services
The City of Calgary has an Urban Design Team which was created to help The City meet its objective of achieving urban design excellence. The Urban Design Team provides a range of services including designing, advising, developing guidelines, and sharing information with developers and planners. The team is comprised of professional architects and urban designers.
This team is responsible for coordinating conceptual designs and ensuring a consistent approach to the overall improvement of Calgary’s public realm, as well as providing guidance and direction on individual projects and policies as required. Some examples of public realm improvements where the Urban Design Team would provide input include: streetscapes, public spaces, gateways, accent lighting strategies, wayfinding, and street furniture programs is part of the Urban Design Team’s ongoing responsibility.
Additonal information can be found at Urban Design Review Framework
Development application and urban design review
As a subset of CPAG (Corporate Planning Applications Group), the Urban Design Team reviews and provides formal comments on commercial and residential development permits, land use applications and acts as a liaison with the development industry.
- Urban Design Review Panel - The Urban Design Review Panel provides independent peer review of certain applications by practitioners experienced in a variety of relevant professional disciplines. This input contributes additional expert opinion to the design discussion and application review.
- Urban Design Review Panel - Terms of Reference
To learn more about urban design reviews of applications, please refer to the Urban Design Review Protocol document.
Design advocacy and outreach
Advocating for great architecture and urban design throughout the city, both internally and externally, is an important part of the Urban Design Team’s core responsibilities. This will occur through a number of initiatives, both currently underway and proposed:
- City-initiated Architecture Projects
- Mayor’s Urban Design Awards (MUDA)
- Centre for Design Excellence
- Urban Design Outreach
Urban design guidelines
The City of Calgary has produced a number of urban design guidelines that apply to specific areas or types of development. The following non-statutory urban design guidelines are considered by the development authority during the review of planning applications.
For more information regarding Urban Design Heritage please contact:
Chief Urban Designer