Parker: Architecture and design team tackles Calgary housing crisis with style

BOLD Workshop Architecture responds to the affordable housing crisis in Calgary with style

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Kayla Browne, BOLD Workshop Architecture principal, and Kate MacGregor, president of XYC Design + Development, last fall embarked on an exploration of creative market-driven affordable housing solutions with graduate students of the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL).

Students have been researching how to respond to this city’s mounting housing affordability crisis, a wide-reaching issue affected by policy at all levels of government and intertwined with complex societal challenges and architectural constraints.

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“This will not be resolved with a one-size-fits-all approach; we need multiple solutions enacted simultaneously across a range of scales and contexts,” Browne says.

Affordable and other residential projects have become of prime interest to Browne and Darren Polanski, her co-principal at BOLD, although they have been successful in designing projects in other sectors since joining forces in 2022, though they had previously worked together as senior associates at Sturgess Architecture.

Browne earned her bachelor of environmental design/architecture degree at the University of Manitoba and went on to receive her masters of architecture at the University of Sydney in Australia. Polanski graduated with a masters of architecture at University of Calgary and also earned a bachelor of fine arts in painting at the Alberta University of the Arts.

After returning from Australia, Browne worked with a homebuilder and BKDI Architects before joining Sturgess, while Polanski worked at the Calgary firm right after university. He left to work in Houston for a couple of years but returned to Calgary where he specialized in transit, focused on station design and urban integration.

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Browne founded BOLD in 2019, but became so busy with new projects she soon needed help. Polanski accepted her offer to join BOLD in 2022, both eager to pursue bigger dreams and goals, including developing their own projects.

They began by developing their own single-family homes and selling them. Now, in collaboration with MacGregor at XYC, they have designed 16 unique multi-family rental units in an established inner-city community made up of eight townhomes with basement suites, purpose-built as affordable units. The development permit has been approved and construction is expected to begin later this year.

BOLD has office space in the building that XYC developed along Confluence Way, in the East Village building that MacGregor developed.

The two companies have also collaborated on the design of the Wandering Stones House at Carraig Ridge in the Ghost River area, offering amazing views of the Rocky Mountains. The exceptional design is made up of three closely related volumes, mimicking geological deposits along the slope of the hill. A blending of architecture with nature, the 1,800-square-foot, single-floor residence is now for sale.

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Another residential development the principals of BOLD are proud of is a fully accessible home for Miter Renovations & Design on Boulton Road N.W. And design challenges have been overcome for a laneway home in Crescent Heights, providing a one-bedroom home above a new single-car garage where the entrance and kitchen are also located.

Restaurant design also plays a big part in the success of BOLD; good examples are the casual, elegant Orchard Restaurant at the base of SODO on 10th Avenue S.W., and Milpa, the small-plates Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar by chef Elia Herrera, designed with a series of stunning arches reflecting Mexico’s colonial architecture. The new Charcut in University District, scheduled to open this spring, is another of its exciting creations.

The firm was also responsible for the conversion of the former Art Gallery of Calgary historic building on Stephen Avenue Walk, that now houses a second-floor office and The Pioneer event centre in the ground and lower-level spaces.

BOLD has also been awarded out-of-province projects, notably in transit work with the upgrading of architecture at Union Station in Toronto, and a 30,000-square-foot maintenance facility for LRT in the Vancouver area.

Browne and Polanski are working hard to catalyze an increased investment and appreciation in quality design throughout the city and beyond.


Calgary entrepreneur Tammy Phan’s success with her Luxe Du Jour business — buying, selling, renting and restoring luxury bags — has earned a $3-million deal with Manjit Minhas and Michele Romanow on Dragons’ Den.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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