Academic Bio Photo
Maya Mahgoub-Desai
Associate Professor, Chair of Environmental Design
Faculty of Design, Graduate Studies

Area(s) of Expertise

Socio-ecological Approaches to Architecture, Urban Design and Planning, Public Health in the Built and Natural Environment, Addressing Equity in Design Education and Inclusive Teaching Pedagogies


Maya Mahgoub-Desai is an Associate Professor and the current Chair of Environmental Design at OCAD University. Maya is a researcher and practitioner whose approaches to urban design, planning and design education are informed by her interdisciplinary research interests in public health and healthcare design; cultural narratives and socio-ecological models of urban development; and addressing equity in design through inclusive studio teaching pedagogies.

Maya's current research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC / CRSH) and investigates themes related to human-environment behaviour; public health policy and public realm design; and inclusive approaches to community collaboration in urban planning. Maya's previous speculative research focused on how cultural perspectives of nature can inform approaches to environmental conservation and was awarded the Architectural Research Consortium's King Medal for Excellence in Architectural and Environmental Research and shortlisted for the Canada Council for the Arts Prix de Rome in Architecture for Emerging Practitioners.

As the Senior Urban Designer and Planner for the renowned firm of Moriyama Teshima Architects, Maya has led several urban and peri-urban campus, community and municipal plans which focus on sustainable approaches, cultural resilience and a collaborative community engagement process. Her portfolio includes serving as a subject matter expert for Waterfront Toronto; developing master plans for Qatar's Education City, Surrey City Development Corporation and the Town of Whitby and campus plans for the University of Lethbridge, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College.

Maya also remains actively engaged in professional and volunteer activities that focus on health, equity and racialized communities, serving as an executive member of BEAT (Building Equality in Architecture Toronto), a committee member of ClimateACT previously as a crisis counsellor for the Toronto Women's Rape and Crisis Centre. Maya is also a frequent guest critic and lecturer in architecture and urban design studios at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, University of Waterloo, Concordia University, UC Irvine, Kent State University and l'Université de Montréal.


  • Graduate Certificate (Mixed Methods Research), School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 2015
  • M.Arch, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Design, University of Toronto, 2010
  • M.Arch Coursework, Tsing Hua University, Beijing, China, 2008
  • BFA with Distinction (Design Art & Computation Arts), Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, 2003
  • BSc Coursework, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, 2000
  • DEC (Honours Pure and Applied Science), Cegep Dawson, Montreal, Canada, 1997

Professional Affiliations / Boards / Juries

Co-Chair, Sustainability Committee, OCAD University

Co-Chair, ODESI (Office of Diversity, Equity, Sustainability Initiatives) Faculty Equity Advisory Committee, OCAD University

Executive Member, BEAT (Building Equality Architecture Toronto)

Committee Member, RAIC Promoting Justice and Equity Advisory Committee