Athabasca University

Athabasca University

Athabasca, AB, CA


Building to Thrive: A Panel Discussion

By veronicamadonna
Nov 24, '20 9:33 AM EST

Date:  Wednesday November 25, 2020

Time:  12:00pm – 1:30pm (MST) / 2:00pm – 3:30 pm (EST)

Venue: Online Video Conference

To Register:

Building to Thrive

Buildings and cities can lift our spirits and help us develop a sense of community and belonging, but far too often they’re a neutral—or even negative—influence on our day-to-day wellbeing.

If our buildings and cities are like physical containers shaped by invisible values, then it’s time to reflect on the shape that they’ve taken over the past few decades and reshape them towards being more equitable, nourishing, and joyful spaces.

Research into how architecture impacts our individual and communal wellbeing, and our sense of physical, emotional, and mental safety, has made major strides in recent decades, and it provides an exciting springboard for compassionately redesigning our buildings to better shelter and support us—mentally as well as physically.

We now know how different aspects of buildings such as lighting, scale, ease of navigation, expressive elements, and cultural fit all make important contributions to inhabitants’ holistic sense of safety and wellbeing. When someone has a safe space to call home, they can recover from life’s challenges better and develop a stronger sense of resilience. And when a building nurtures social connections and a sense of belonging, all of its residents have a better chance to thrive.

This panel will discuss the importance of physical, emotional, and mental safety in our built environment and housing developments. When designing housing, why is the emotional and mental safety of users so rarely considered, especially in contrast with physical safety? And how can addressing these psychological needs help encourage a community to thrive?

We will be discussing these issues at both a local and global scale. Activism begins within local communities, and for that reason we will be offering specific ideas about architectural elements that can contribute to safety and wellbeing.

We hope that participants will gain a clearer idea of the architectural elements that can contribute to safety and wellbeing, and when (and how!) to implement these design considerations on a project. 

About the Panelists:

Cynthia Dovell, AVID Architecture

Cynthia is a principle at AVID Architecture, the Alberta Chapter Chair of the RAIC, and an architectural design instructor at the RAIC Centre for Architecture at Athabasca University. Having lived in over 20 different urban and rural places across Canada, she has a deep knowledge of the variety of landscapes and the communities that live here. With experience working together with many diverse peoples and organizations, she is adept at finding ways to meet diverse needs. Specializing in human-centered design that supports community wellness, her designs are both functional and artful in order to soothe the soul, inspire joy, and balance our nervous systems. 

Chelsey Jersak, Situate

Avid urbanist and community builder, Chelsey Jersak is the founder and principal of Situate, a boutique planning firm based in Edmonton offering advisory, rezoning, permitting, and subdivision coordination services for awesome infill projects. Her writing has appeared in Plan Canada, the APPI Planning Journal, Municipal World, Curb Magazine, and The Yards, and she has presented her projects and ideas at numerous national and provincial planning conferences throughout Western Canada.

Chelsey has a B.A. in Regional and Urban Development and an M.A. in Human Geography from the University of Saskatchewan. She is a Registered Professional Planner and a certified Project Management Professional, Vice President of the Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA) and past Edmonton Director of the Alberta district council of the Urban Land Institute. She was also a founding member of the Child Friendly Housing Coalition of Alberta, which successfully lobbied the Government of Alberta to amend human rights legislation so that children under 18 could no longer be barred from living in rental and condominium apartment buildings.

George Crawford, Ratcreek Press and Athabasca University

George is the Youth Culture and Community Director at the Rat Creek Press and an Architecture student at Athabasca University. Originally from Slave Lake, they now live in Cromdale and are an active member of the Parkdale-Cromdale community league. George is an active advocate for those experiencing homelessness and mental illness. 

 Ofelia Leon, Befriending Self

Ofelia is a counselling therapist currently in private practice full time in Edmonton following 18 years of continuous service in the mental health field at different organizations in Ottawa, the Northwest Territories and locally as the supervisor of the Suicide Grief Support Program CMHA until 2017.  She is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Registered Professional Counsellor (RPC) and Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling status (MPCC). 

Ofelia is passionate about applying bio-psycho-physiological tools from the Polyvagal Theory, Somatic Experiencing, Neuro-Affective Touch, and Compassion Focused Therapy to support the wellbeing of people.

She specialises in resolving trauma after a single event and/or after cumulated adverse life events. Common themes addressed in her practice are: Intergenerational legacies, adults abused as children, chronic Pain/fibromyalgia, developmental trauma, suicide bereavement, grief and loss, exploring the strengths of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) populations, LGBTQA+, medical procedure trauma, motor vehicle collisions, refugees, survivors of domestic violence, survivors of mass disasters, war and sexual abuse.

Anne Stevenson, Right at Home Housing Society

Anne Stevenson is a proud born and raised Edmontonian. Anne became passionate about place-based community building during her undergrad in International Development and Political Economy at Trent University. She went on to complete an MSc in City Design and Social Science at the London School of Economics and spent five years working in the UK in a range of urban design roles. Following a two year stint as a planner at Port Metro Vancouver, Anne was thrilled to move home in 2012 to work at the City of Edmonton, where over seven years she led a community redevelopment plan process and extensive updates to the city’s zoning bylaw. Anne currently works as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at theRight at Home Housing Society, which provides a range of affordable housing solutions to meet the diverse needs of individuals and families in Edmonton.


Participants who attend the full 90-minute session will be granted a Certificate of Completion to apply for professional development credits recognized by the following institutes.

  • Alberta Association of Architects (AAA) | 1.5 Structured Learning Hour
  • Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) | 1.5 Structured Learning Hour
  • Cape Institute for Architecture (CIfA) | 0.25 Category 1 CPD Credits
  • Gauteng Institute for Architecture (GIFA) | 0.25 Category 1 CPD Credits
  • KwaZulu Natal Institute for Architecture (SAIA-KZN) | 0.25 Category 1 CPD Credits

For Inquiries: 

Dr. Henry Tsang

Assistant Professor, RAIC Centre for Architecture, Athabasca University