Brook McIlroy and Ryan Gorrie
The Gathering Circle is an open-air pavilion occupying a highly visible location on Thunder Bay’s revitalized downtown waterfront. Its design reflects an adaptation of traditional Aboriginal bentwood building techniques, using modest means of construction and sustainable building practice. This eighty-foot diameter structure is an ‘inclusive circle’, providing space for ceremonies, music and gatherings. It serves as a central landmark in the downtown that grounds residents and visitors in a fuller understanding of the City’s deep origins, while giving expression to its founding Aboriginal culture. The design was a collaboration between Brook McIlroy and Aboriginal designer/artist, Ryan Gorrie from Thunder Bay.
“Considered to be the central element of the Spirit Garden located within Prince Arthur’s Landing, the Gathering Circle is a magical installation that successfully contributes to the reinvigoration of Thunder Bay’s waterfront. This urban fragment legitimizes and celebrates the history or Aboriginal peoples within the context of the Lake Superior shoreline. The expressive and spiritually grounding design of the structure uses traditional bentwood construction where young spruce trees were harvested by the Aboriginal community, then bent and tied together to create 20 truss-like structures that encompass a semi-enclosed shroud. The shroud is then lined with weathering-steel laser-cut panels at its base which depict various Aboriginal scenes. Its presence exudes a timeless quality and acknowledges the physical context of its site, in addition to respecting the history of First Nations in the area--a history that was previously invisible to a large percentage of Thunder Bay’s population.”