Nik Luka

Associate Professor (joint appointment with Urban Planning)
Academic title(s): 

Ph.D. (Toronto)
M.Arch. (Laval)
B.A.A. (Toronto Met.)


Nik Luka
Contact Information
Email address: 
nik.luka [at]
Macdonald-Harrington Building Room 407
Associate Director, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montréal. Associate Member, Department of Equity, Ethics, and Policy. Associate Member, Bieler School of Environment. Member, Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design.

I am a specialist in ethnography, landscape studies, and critical studies of design and planning. Much of my research and teaching activities explore what I call REURBANISM--the processes of transformation, contestation, and negotiation that occur in (re)urban(ising) landscapes. These are operationalised through action-research collaborations with public agencies and civil-society organisations as well as conventional investigative research and practical work on urban design and participatory governance. In a nutshell, I’m fascinated by how architects, planners, and other professionals engage with one another (or not…) and with non-specialists who offer other important forms of knowledge and expertise to develop techniques, possibilities, and capacities for transforming (sub)urban landscapes to make better use of scarce resources while maintaining the qualities of place that people value about the settings that they know and inhabit on an everyday basis.

My interests in both research and professional practice encompass major themes that are familiar to most architects, landscape architects, planners, and geographers: housing, infrastructure, public space, cultural landscapes, urban design, and deliberative democracy. I typically do work that is inductive in a ‘constructivist’ orientation; while not an historian, I am especially intrigued by narrative, representations, text, and discourse as they apply to the work of architecture, urban design, and urban planning. What sorts of stories do we tell about the complexities of human settlements and the processes by which places become ‘(sub)urban’? How do specialists and non-specialists engage with the transformations, continuities, and ruptures that come with the passage of time, notably the liminal or transitional phases ‘from’ some condition ‘to’ some other condition? How can design can act as a hinge between natural process and human culture to guide change? More strategically, my activities focus on the deliberate policy-led remaking of everyday space through what is known in German as Stadtumbau (literally the reworking of cities and suburbs).

Currently-funded projects include comparative critical studies of densification and transformation of postwar landscapes (including transit-oriented development) with colleagues in Sweden and continental Europe, transdisciplinary strategies for landscape connectivity and ‘walkability’ in various contexts, a Canada-wide SSHRC Partnership Grant with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on innovative land practices for housing quality and affordability, and a Montréal partnership focusing on commoning in the Champ des Possibles. I also have enduring interests in the dynamics of the rural-urban fringe (often described as ‘periurban’ or ‘exurban’ settings), including second homes and the ways in which landscape amenities affect patterns of growth and development over time.

Professors need to engage in local communities of practice beyond the university campus, which I have done in various capacities over the last 20 years. I have been a member of the Conseil d’administration (Board of Directors) for several organisations including the Montréal Urban Ecology Centre / Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal (striving for the development of vibrant civic life, including participatory urban design, planning, and governance), the Fondation Schmeelk Canada Foundation (which promotes intercultural awareness and interprovincial mobility for young Canadians pursuing post-secondary studies), and Convercité, a non-profit Montréal consultancy helping civil-society actors, project entrepreneurs, and policymakers to ensure that progressive human(ist) values are at the core of city-building and landscape planning. I also have worked with Suspicious Fish (a non-profit group based in Verdun which strengthens community through creative writing), Literacy Québec (linking community-based literacy organisations across Québec to empower people, impact lives, and build a stronger society), Before moving to Montréal, I was also a member of the Tafelmusik early music ensemble in Toronto for 10 years, with which I recorded several compact discs and one film production (with the Mark Morris Dance Group).

Montréal is home, but I have also lived in Québec City, Basel (Switzerland), Sheffield (England), Malmö (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), Toronto, and in Ontario’s ‘Near North’ (Manitoulin Island, Georgian Bay, and the Haliburton Highlands). My paternal grandparents were Magyars who came to Canada from the tattered remains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 20th century, but my maternal family roots in this country can be traced to Scottish merchants who settled in Québec City in the 1760s and were part of a small group of civic leaders who successfully lobbied the British Crown for the establishment of a parliament for Lower Canada (today's Assemblée nationale du Québec).


Selected publications: 

[2023] Walking beyond the city ? On the importance of recreational mobilities for landscape planning, urban design, and public policy. Mobilities, 18 (5), 789–804. doi : 10.1080/17450101.2023.2242001

[2023] Recreational mobilities in (and beyond) the compact city. Mobilities, 18 (5), 691– 699. Cowritten with M. Qviström (lead) and D. Normark. doi : 10.1080/17450101.2023.2235088

[2022] Complementing citizen engagement with innovative forms of professional co-production : a renewed case for transdisciplinary charrettes. In H. L. Kong & T. Monforte (eds.), Sustainability, citizen participation, and city governance : multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 163–193). Toronto : University of Toronto Press. Cowritten with B. Aird and N.-M. Lister.

[2021] It’s not how dense we make it, but how we make it dense : on porosity as a corequisite of densification. Aménager : Expérience et innovation d’un quartier, 4 (2 : Habiter), 12–21. Online :

[2019] Beyond circular thinking : Geographies of Transit-Oriented Development. International Journal of Urban & Regional Research, 43(4), 786-793. Cowritten with M. Qviström (lead) and G. De Block. doi : 10.1111/1468-2427.12798

[2018] Civic coproduction = Counterinstitutions + people. Make participation work by focusing on the possible. Invited contribution to The Nature of Cities. Online :

[2017] Deliberative democracy and digital urban design in a Canadian city : The case of the McGill Online Design Studio. In Digital democracy in a globalised world (C. Prins, C. Cuijpers, P. L. Lindseth, and M. Rosina, eds.). London : Edward Elgar, pp. 180-200. Cowritten with H. L. Kong (lead), J. Cudmore, & A. Dumas.

[2017] Montréal : Blue collars, green corridors, post-industrial waterways. In Third Coast Atlas : Prelude to a plan (D. Ibañez, C. Lyster, C. Waldheim, and M. White, eds.). New York : Actar, pp. 276–281. Cowritten with H. Braiden.

[2017] Contested periurban amenity landscapes : changing waterfront ‘countryside ideals’ in central Canada. Landscape Research, 42 (3), 256-276. doi: 10.1080/01426397.2016.1267335

[2016] « Midtown » florissant : La Petite-Patrie aux abords du chemin de fer. In Montréal : la cité des cités (J.-L. Klein and R. G. Shearmur, eds.) Montréal : Presses de l’Université du Québec, pp. 169-190.

[2016] Emerging challenges of vector-borne diseases for Canadian cities. Canada Communicable Disease Report, 42 (10), 217-218. doi : 10.14745/ccdr.v42i10a12

[2016] Nesting boxes : An elegant arts centre is the nucleus of a new civic hub for an off-island suburb of Montreal. Canadian Architect, 61 (11),  48-51.

[2015] Pour un urbanisme des possibles dans le Quartier des spectacles. In Le Quartier des spectacles et le chantier de l'imaginaire montréalais (S. Harel, L. Lussier, and J. Thibert, eds.). Québec City : Presses de l’Université Laval, pp. 185-201. Cowritten with P.-É. Gendron, J. Cudmore, & V. Mikadze.

[2014] Democratic deliberation in the wild : The McGill Online Design Studio and the RegulationRoom Project. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 41 (5), 1527-1580. Cowritten with C. Farina (lead), H. L. Kong, C. Blake, and M. Newhart.

[2013] 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 and L. Taylor, eds.). New York : Routledge, pp. 121-158.

[2013] Urban spectacular : a bold series of downtown plazas reintroduces vibrant urban life into spaces left over from postwar megaprojects. Canadian Architect, 58 (2), 18-22.

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