Gavin Renwick

Canada Research Chair in Design Studies

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2017-01-01
University of Alberta
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Facilitating cross-disciplinary dialogue between traditional environmental knowledge and contemporary design practice in the Canadian North

Research relevance

This research will lead to sustainability, cultural continuity and design innovation by developing an effective relationship between contemporary design and the needs of northern communities.

Design and Sustainability in Canada’s North

When ideas from traditional environmental knowledge are combined with contemporary design practice in the Canadian North, the result is design that generates social, economic and environmental sustainability in northern communities. That’s the view of Dr. Gavin Renwick, Canada Research Chair in Design Studies, who is working with communities in the Canadian North to link traditional environmental knowledge with contemporary design.

Renwick, who has worked extensively for Dene communities in the Northwest Territories, sees ancestral knowledge not as an inert heritage, but as a dynamic tool that helps to shape our relationship with the environment in today’s world. He is acting as a cultural intermediary between knowledge traditions to facilitate a fair and inclusive discussion about the designed environment.

Renwick believes truly effective and sustainable design must be generated from the specific needs and values of local communities. To achieve that goal, Renwick is conducting a major review of design policy and practice in the North. He will then collaborate with northern communities to redefine contemporary design that bridges community, environmental and knowledge traditions.

His research will lead to the development of innovative and sustainable hybrid design applications that nurture cultural continuity and self-determination in 21st century northern Canada.