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Nik Luka

Nik Luka

Associate professor
(joint appointment with Urban Planning)
Ph.D. (Toronto)
M.Arch. (Laval)
B.A.A. (Ryerson)

Macdonald-Harrington Building
Room 418
Tel.: 514 398 5925
nik [dot] luka [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)


Courses given (2013-2014)


ARCH 602 Housing Seminar

ARCH 603 Urban Design & Housing Studio

URBP 602 Urb Design Sem 1: Foundations

Nik Luka is jointly appointed to the Schools of Architecture and Urban Planning and an Associate with the McGill School of Environment. He is a core faculty member in the Urban Design and Housing option within the post-professional M.Arch. degree program.

Prof. Luka's main interest is in urban design as an interdisciplinary approach to better understanding the form, processes, uses, and meanings of space in everyday settings--and how this can enable us to develop sustainable yet strategic design and policy interventions. Urban design can thus be seen as overlapping with critical areas of debate and practice such as landscape urbanism. His current research and teaching activity is centred on three interlocking sets of concerns as they inform design practice:

(Re)urban(ising) landscapes—an interest in what exists and what is possible in urban space, including how to rebuild cities and suburbs to adapt to life after peak oil, encouraging active modes of transportation (walking, cycling, etc.), and various studies of housing (choice, satisfaction, residential mobility, demand patterns; second homes and multiple residency; and the continuing problems of equitable housing provision in North America and abroad).

Representations and mediations of urban space—how the collaborative practices of urban design, architecture, and urban planning are situated in the broader context of public debate, politics, and institutional pathways, which entails studying how ideas, narratives of place, cultural mediations, and other representations motivate individual or group behaviour (including how these contribute to creating and sustaining cultural landscapes, as well as fuelling the development of ideologies and epistemologies), drawing on post-structuralist, feminist, and queer-theory approaches.

Infrastructure as public space—in what ways can we repurpose what have long been considered monofunctional elements of the urban landscape to meet different needs? How can we optimise the sunk capital represented by major public works in terms of how urban activity is distributed in space? How can urban design take advantage of needs and opportunities for reurbanisation to help encourage active modes of transportation (walking, cycling, etc.)?

Additional research interests include urban agriculture, landscape planning, urban morphology, environmental history, tourism, and cognitive science.

Hailing originally from Toronto but with extensive sojourns in Québec City, Basel (Switzerland), and Sheffield (England), Prof. Luka is a member of the Board of Directors of the Centre d'écologie urbaine de Montréal, which has as its mission to build and share expertise concerning viable, democratic approaches to sustainability in urban and suburban contexts, and beyond the realm of architecture and urban design with the Fondation Schmeelk Canada Foundation, which aims to promote understanding and cooperation between Canada’s French- and English-speaking populations. He was also a member of the Tafelmusik early music ensemble in Toronto for 10 years, with which he recorded several CDs.


Recent major projects


Co-investigator, From speculation to evaluation: A digitally-mediated laboratory for local deliberative democracy 

Funding agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Insight Grants)
Total amount of award : C$204 500 (2012-2015)
Principal Investigator: Prof. H. Kong, Faculty of Law, McGill University

Co-investigator, Québec 2020 : vers un projet collectif d'aménagement durable
Funding agency: Fonds québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture (Soutien aux équipes de recherche)
Total amount of award: C$482 240 (2010-2014)
Principal Investigator: Prof. C. Després, École d’architecture, Université Laval

Co-investigator (2010-2013), Making megaprojects work for communities
Funding agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Community-University Research Alliances)
Total amount of award: C$1 000 000 (2007-2013)
Principal Investigator: Prof. L. Bornstein, School of Urban Planning, McGill University

Co-investigator, Integrated dissemination forums for architecture and urban design 
Funding agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Public Outreach Grants: Innovation, Leadership and Prosperity)
Total amount of award : C$128 000 (2010-2012)
Principal Investigator: Prof. M. Jemtrud, School of Architecture, McGill University

Principal Investigator, Optimising public transport infrastructure for sustainable city-building and urban regeneration: whole-corridor urban design strategies
Funding agency: Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (Future Urban Transport Programme)
Total amount of award : C$218 500 (2008-2010)


Selected publications


Sojourning in nature: the second-home exurban landscapes of Ontario’s Near North. In Landscape and the ideology of nature in exurbia: Green sprawl (K.V. Cadieux & L. Taylor, Eds.). New York: Routledge, 2012, pp. 121-158.

Finding opportunities for urban sustainability in cottage life. In Urban sustainability: reconnecting space and place (A. Dale, W.T. Dushenko, & P.J. Robinson, Eds.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012, pp. 171-210.

Georgian Bay, Muskoka, and Haliburton: more than cottage country. In Beyond the global city: understanding and planning for the diverse georegions of Ontario (G. Nelson, Ed.). Montréal / Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012, pp. 169-199. Co-author: N.-M. Lister. 

Del espacio al lugar y al paisaje cultural : segundas residencias a orillas de rìos y lagos en Canadà central. In Construir un nueva vida. Los espacios del turismo y la migración residencial (T. Mazón, R. Huete, & A. Mantecón, Eds.). Santander (Spain): Milrazones Ed., 2011, pp. 21-46.

Evaluating the impacts of transportation plans using accessibility measures: a test case in Montréal. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 20(1), 81-104. Co-authors: A. El-Geneidy (lead), A. Cerdá, and R. Fischler. 

Arts of (dis)placement: City space and urban design in the London of ‘Breaking and Entering’. Cinémas, 21(1), 79-103. Co-author: L. Bird. 

Of timeshare cottages, zebra mussels, and McMansions: Dispatches from the second-home settings of central Ontario. In The rural-urban fringe in Canada : conflict and controversy (K. Beesley, Ed.). Brandon (Manitoba): Rural Development Institute, Brandon University, 2010, pp. 199-219. 

Le « cottage » comme pratique intergénérationnelle : narrations de la vie familiale dans les résidences secondaires du centre de l’Ontario. Enfances, Familles, Générations, 8, 2008, 86-117. Online: http://tinyurl.com/lukaEFG

Making the edible campus: a model for food-secure urban regeneration. Open House International, 34(2), 2008, 81-90. Co-authors: V. Bhatt (lead), L.M. Farah, and J.M. Wolfe.

Waterfront second homes in the central Canada woodlands: Images, social practice, and attachment to multiple residency. Ethnologia Europaea (Journal of European Ethnology) 37(1-2), 2008, 70-87.

From summer cottage colony to metropolitan suburb: Toronto’s Beach district, 1889-1929. Urban History Review 35(1), 2006, 18-31.

Reworking the Canadian landscape through urban design: responsive design, healthy housing and other lessons. In R. Côté, A. Dale, and J. Tansey, eds. Linking industry and ecology: a matter of design? Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005.

Complexity and contradiction in the ageing early postwar suburbs of Québec City. In B. C. Scheer & K. Stanilov, eds., Suburban form: an international perspective. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Co-authors: G. Vachon and D. Lacroix.

‘Deeply connected’ to the ‘natural landscape’: Exploring the cultural landscapes and places of exurbia. In D. Ramsey and C. Bryant, eds., The Structure and Dynamics of Rural Territories: Geographical Perspectives. Brandon: Brandon University Press, 2004. Co-authors: A. Blum, K. V. Cadieux, and L. Taylor.

Contested ground: the dynamics of peri-urban growth in the Toronto region. In Canadian Journal of Regional Science, 26(2-3), 2003. Co-authors: L. S. Bourne, M. F. Bunce, L. Taylor, and J. Maurer.

In the burbs: it’s time to recognise that suburbia is a real place too. In Alternatives, 28(3), 2002. Co-author: L. Trottier.

De la ville à la banlieue, de la banlieue à la ville: des représentations spatiales en évolution. In A. Fortin, C. Després & G. Vachon (Eds.), La banlieue revisitée. Québec City: Éditions Nota Bene, 2002. Co-author: N. Brais.

Our place: Community ecodesign for the Great White North means re-integrating local culture and nature. In Alternatives, 26(3), 2000. Co-author: N.-M. Lister.

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