University of Calgary

Sandalack and the Urban Lab: an Ongoing Experiment in Research, Education and Outreach

Submitted by jwalla on Thu, 2013/07/11 - 12:28pm.

Since 2000, Dr. Bev Sandalack has led an innovative, award-winning research group in EVDS. The Urban Lab deals with urban design, planning and development issues, and is committed to research-based pedagogy.

The Urban Lab started small with a single project and a modest budget dealing with Calgary’s emerging cultural district, and then grew over time to serve a range of community needs, attract students, create internship opportunities, and provide a structure around which faculty and student research in urban design could be centred. As of 2013, after approximately $1.5 million in funding, it has supported over forty-five research assistantships and a professional research associate (Francisco Alaniz Uribe, MEDes (Urban Design) has worked with the lab since 2004). Cristina Badescu and Lance Robinson, the most recent research assistants, have also served as teaching assistants in planning and urban design courses where they were able to transmit the knowledge and skills that they acquired through Urban Lab projects to other students.

The approach and methodology used by the Urban Lab emphasizes three guiding principles: landscape and the public realm should be the organizing infrastructure of urban form; sense of place should be supported; and community bonds should be strengthened. The approach and methods have also informed several student theses and contributed to their individual research. The Urban Lab takes on applied research projects with town and city councils, neighbourhood committees and other civic groups to advance knowledge and practice, and we also conduct more conventional research through support from academic grants. We work closely with the City of Calgary, including several projects and an ongoing relationship with the Urban Alliance (a partnership between the City and the University). Several Urban Lab projects have received local, national and international recognition through peer-reviewed professional awards.

The experience of the Urban Lab over the past thirteen years has demonstrated the value of engaging in both conventional research as well as applied community-engaged projects in terms of their contributions to knowledge and practice and their effectiveness in providing unique and exceptional educational experiences for research assistants. The Urban Lab model allows teaching, training and education to evolve in real time, while making concrete contributions to the community, to the academic literature as well as the popular press, and to our academic programs. 

Dr. Bev Sandalack is the Associate Dean (Academic) Environmental Design and Planning as well as the Interim Director of the PhD Program with the Faculty of Environmental Design. Click here to learn more about the EVDS Urban Lab projects, publications, and ideas.

To view more EVDS faculty research, click here.