RAIC launches new Indigenous task force

A new RAIC task force comprised largely of indigenous architects and intern architects will seek ways to foster and promote Indigenous design in Canada, says RAIC President Allan Teramura, FRAIC.

The inaugural meeting of the RAIC Indigenous Task Force took place June 9 in Nanaimo, BC (Snuneymuxw territory) during the 2016 Festival of Architecture. It is considered the largest gathering of Aboriginal architects from across Canada.

Of the 12 people in attendance, nine were Indigenous. Some were meeting each other for the first time.

“Respecting culture in Indigenous communities through design and construction is, I believe, important but largely ignored in places that have a history of multiple challenges,” says Teramura.

“It’s essential that Indigenous architects take the lead in this initiative – as this requires an exceptional level of cultural sensitivity, experience, and understanding,” he says. “Having said that, there are non-Indigenous architects who have those qualities and have an important contribution to make.”

The task force is developing a work plan and identifying priorities. One of the goals is to “seek out successful Indigenous architecture and celebrate it,” says Eladia Smoke, a member of the task force. “Now is the time to talk together, to use the tools advanced by modern technologies in harmony with an approach built from a living kinship with the natural environment,” she says.

Under consideration are possible collaborations with Indigenous design communities in Australia and New Zealand. The Task Force has already been serving  as an Indigenous community resource providing commentary as specific issues arise.

The conversation at the June 9 meeting explored topics such as how to apply good practices in architecture and site planning for Indigenous spaces, identifying roadblocks and promoting architecture as a career for Indigenous students.

There was discussion that in some First Nation communities, the initial focus needs to be on basics such as clean piped water. Participants discussed the importance of highlighting positive examples of cultural identity through design. They also explored how to inform communities about alternatives to buildings and community layouts that evoke temporary camp-like conditions.

“Too often First Nation, Métis, and Inuit capital projects are designed with minimal community involvement, and ultimately fail to meet community objectives for this reason,” says Patrick Stewart, PhD, MRAIC, chair of the task force.  

“To achieve sustainable Indigenous communities, we need designers and designs that can create long-term relevance, exemplify a respectful cultural and economic and environmental responsibility to sustainable development, and consider the reciprocal well-being and quality of life of the people,” says Stewart.

 The following attended the meeting:

  • Dr. Patrick Stewart/Luugigyoo (Nisga'a), Architect AIBC, MRAIC, LEED AP is a former president of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. He is the founding principal of Patrick R. Stewart Architect (PRSA)  and Associate Professor at the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University.
  • Eladia Smoke / KaaSheGaaBaaWeak, Waabishki-Ma’iingan doodem, MRAIC, (Obishikokaang / Lac Seul and Alderville First Nations, ON) founded Smoke Architecture in 2014 and has worked with Architecture 49 in Thunder Bay since 2015, She is a faculty member at the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University. Previously, she was with Prairie Architects in Winnipeg.
  • Alfred Waugh, MRAIC, (Fond Du Lac (Denesuline) Nation, SK) specializes in culturally and environmentally sensitive projects and has extensive experience with First Nations, cultural societies, and educational institutions. In 2005, Alfred established Alfred Waugh Architect, a 100-percent aboriginally owned architecture practice. In 2012, Alfred incorporated the firm and changed the name to Formline Architecture + Urbanism with clients throughout the Northwest Pacific Region.
  • Harriet Burdett-Moulton, FRAIC, (Métis) has worked primarily in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. She lives in Dartmouth, NS and works remotely with the Iqaluit office of Stantec. Included in her extensive portfolio is Piqqusilirivvik, an Inuit Cultural Learning Facility in Clyde River on Baffin Island and the St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit.
  • Ray Gosselin, MRAIC, (Muscowpetung First Nation, SK) is the Principal of Ray Gosselin Architect Limited in Regina and is President of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects. His experience includes 10 years of facility management as planner, master planner, project manager, and architect with the First Nations University of Canada, University of Regina, and University of Alberta.
  • Wanda Dalla Costa, AIA, LEED A.P., (Saddle Lake First Nation, Alberta) is a Visiting Eminent Scholar at Arizona State University. Her firm, Redquill Architecture, is located in Phoenix. Wanda has been working with First Nation and Tribal clients across Canada and the USA for more than 20 years.
  • Rachelle Lemieux, MRAIC, (Métis) is an intern architect at Stantec in Winnipeg. She represented interns and intern architects on the RAIC board from 2013 to 2015. She currently sits on the steering committee of the RAIC Emerging Practitioners.
  • Ouri Scott, MRAIC, (Tlicho First Nation) is an intern architect at Dialog in Vancouver. Her interests include sustainable infrastructure and resilient community planning in Indigenous communities.
  • Jason Surkan, (Métis), is enrolled in a Masters of Architecture program at the University of British Columbia. He is a photographer and also does traditional craftwork. 
  • Jill Stoner, MRAIC, is the director of the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University in Ottawa and representative of the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture on the RAIC board. Her professional practice comprised adaptive reuse, additions and renovations to public buildings, and visionary urban competitions.
  • Also in attendance were RAIC President Allan Teramura, FRAIC, and Maria Cook, RAIC Manager of Communications and Advocacy. Other members of the task force that were not able to attend include David Thomas; Ryan Gorrie, MRAIC; Cheyenne Thomas, Destiny Seymour, Douglas Cardinal, FRAIC; and David Fortin, MRAIC.