For the past 30 years, David has combined practice and teaching for much of his career. He has worked across Western Canada from the Lakehead to the west coast of Vancouver Island and into the high Arctic. During his career he has completed assignments as a Senior Planner with the Province of Manitoba, Chief Planner, Parks Canada: Prairie Region (including the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon), Principal Hilderman Witty Crosby Hanna and Associates, an award winning Winnipeg and Saskatoon firm of landscape architects and planners, and Principal and Director Urban Systems Ltd., an award winning multi-disciplinary firm (voted twice as one of Canada’s top 50 companies) of engineers, landscape architects and planners with offices across BC and Alberta. While on the west coast, he built on his interest in urban design and collaborated with a number of architectural firms. Downtown revitalisation, design charrettes, design guidelines, urban design interventions, and comprehensive area/neighbourhood concept plans became a key specialty in Urban Systems, where David established a design studio. Much of his west coast practice centred on the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Interior and the north coast of British Columbia, as well as Calgary. He has completed over 40 urban design and planning projects and over 30 community planning projects, as well as a large number of regional scale studies. He has provided expert opinion to large legal firms on urban design and planning matters.
David continues to consult on a selected basis. During the past few years, he has been actively involved in Abu Dhabi where he has worked closely with Dr. Larry Beasley, an internationally recognised urbanist and the People’s Republic of China where David has provided advice to urban planning projects. Over the past three years, he has also provided consulting advice on regional and community planning projects in Canada.
While consulting in the 1980’s and 1990’s, David taught in the Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba as an Assistant Professor (part-time) in City Planning and Landscape Architecture, in the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) at UBC, and Simon Fraser University (SFU) City Program. In the early nineties, he was Acting Director, Continuing Professional Programs at the School of Community and Regional Planning and Co-ordinator of the Certificate in Site Planning: a continuing education certificate. In the late nineties he helped to develop the award-winning Certificate in Urban Design at SFU that was oriented to practitioners. While at UBC, David completed a Ph.D. His dissertation entitled, Identifying a More Appropriate Role for the Canadian Planning Profession, was a culmination of his research and writing interests over much of his career. As a result of that work, he wrote a Professional Practice Manual that was published by the Canadian Institute of Planners and has been sold widely across Canada with over several thousand in print.
David has been appointed as a Member of three Canadian Environmental Assessment Review Panels, providing advice to Federal and Provincial Ministers of the Environment on national scope projects (Shoal Lake Water Supply; Conawapa Hydro-Project and Sunshine Village Expansion). He chaired the Heritage Winnipeg Advisory Committee in its early years and helped to develop the Area’s Design Guidelines which were one of the first such documents in Canada. He has served as a member of the International Advisory Board, Centre for African Settlement Studies and Development (based in Ibadan, Nigeria), and a number of regional bodies, including Smart Growth BC where he was a Founding Director. He was the founding Chair of the City of Winnipeg’s Urban Design Advisory Committee. He is a former President of the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) and was founding Chair of the Canadian Healthy Communities Project. He was elected a Fellow of CIP in 1998 for “his outstanding contribution to planning in Canada.” He is a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a Founding Member of the Council for Canadian Urbanism (recently made an Honourary Member along with five other prominent Canadian urbanists). David sits currently on the Advisory Committee for Planning, Design and Realty, National Capital Commission.
David Witty is currently Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Vancouver Island University (VIU). VIU has over 8,000 full time students across nine Faculties. From 2001-2009, he was Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba. The Faculty is the largest design and planning English-speaking Faculty in Canada with approximately 600 students and 37 fulltime and 25 part-time faculty. The Faculty has an award winning unique Partners Program that links faculty, students, the design professions and industry to explore innovation and opportunities for collaboration. The Faculty also houses the only architecture research facility in North America: The Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology that opened in October 2002. Upon his reappointment as Dean in 2006, David indicated that it was his intent to step down as Dean in July 2009.
While Dean, he continued teaching and led three innovative interdisciplinary Graduate Cross-Cultural Studios, partnering with northern Manitoba First Nations to explore First Nation planning and design issues. During his tenure as Dean, he taught undergraduate design studios and the first year Introductory to Environmental Design course to 250 students per term. It was his belief that undergraduate students should receive strong teaching input. His focus upon Aboriginal content, networking and consultation was recognised by the Southeast Tribal Council upon his stepping down as Dean. He also reached out to the external community and worked with the Province of Manitoba, City of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce to explore emerging urban planning and design concepts. Those interactions included design charrettes and public engagement processes. Those initiatives were covered by the local media and raised over $35,000 in an endowed scholarship for the Faculty.
During his tenure as Dean, the Faculty’s Scholarship grants and awards increased significantly and nearly tripled its endowment funds for scholarships and bursaries to over $6 million. Within the Faculty, David worked with colleagues to develop a new Ph.D. in Design (first in Canada) and a Ph.D. in Planning; approved by the Board of Governors and offered in 2008. He helped spearhead the approval of a major reform of the undergraduate Environmental Design Degree. David lead the development of a new Aboriginal Design and Planning Option (approved by Senate in 2009); the first of its kind in North America. During his appointment, the Faculty has received permission to fill 20 academic positions. In all cases, the preferred candidate accepted the Faculty’s offer of employment, indicating the high regard the design community has for the Faculty. He helped the University to investigate the development of a new pan-university Experimental Media program. As Dean of the Faculty, David built on the recognised interdisciplinary strengths of the Faculty and the individual Departments (Architecture, City Planning, Environmental Design, Interior Design and Landscape Architecture). During his tenure as Dean, each of the professional programmes, received exemplary accreditation reports, with each report commending the Dean for his strong advocacy for the disciplines.
Throughout his career, David has written a large number of planning articles, op. ed articles, and delivered papers at numerous national and international conferences. He is the recipient of several awards, including Canadian Society of Landscape Architects National Honour and Regional Merit Awards (as part of Hilderman Witty).
David Witty advocates for quality education through linkage of students, faculty and industry, promotion of excellence in teaching, scholarship and service, and creation of a respectful and a supportive learning and work environment. He is also an advocate for quality urban design through writings, lectures, invited presentations and community service and selected consulting projects.