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The Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Quebec: The building’s shape is based on the Cree people’s traditional longhouse. Local wood is used throughout to symbolize a deep connection to the surrounding forest.

Wood brings sense of comfort and
familiarity to indigenous structures

Canadian architectural institute sets up task force
to foster and promote indigenous design


Whether it's the longhouse, the teepee, the wigwam or some other structure; Indigenous architecture has usually included wood, says a Saskatchewan architect who is a member of Muscowpetung First Nation.

"Indigenous architecture emphasizes both the variety and the volume of wood products that it uses," said Ray Gosselin, a Regina architect and president of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects.

The wood used in indigenous architecture is valued as a product of the earth and for its ability to retain or resonate with an ancestral spirit.

"In addition, the type of wood that is used should come from the immediate region," Gosselin said. "For example, my ancestors' nomadic way of life required wood for teepee poles which was locally grown and which was easy to transport."

At the same time, indigenous cultures traded with other regions, so they knew about types of wood from outside their own area.

Gosselin's enthusiasm, notwithstanding indigenous architecture in Canada; is still in its infancy.

To move it along, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada recently set up an Indigenous Task Force to foster and promote indigenous design in Canada.

Alfred Waugh is owner and principal of FormLine Architecture in Vancouver, British Columbia. "To generalize, the indigenous approach to architecture is based on a synthesis of cultural sensitivity and environmental responsibility," said Waugh. "In addition, First Nations are very adaptive and pragmatic. You can see that in their use of wood to design and construct buildings."

Read more of this story at the Journal of Commerce

The Longhouse for the Native Child and Family Services Building in Toronto, designed by Canadian architecture firm Levitt Goodman Architects, which was shortlisted for the prestigious “Interior Design Best of the Year Award.


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