Indigenous House receives national architectural award of merit

Renderings for Indigenous House
Indigenous House recently received a Canadian Architectural Award of Merit for its design (Image courtesy Formline Architecture and LGA Architecture Partners

Luis Felipe Mussalem

Indigenous House may be in the process of being built, but it’s already earning national recognition for its innovative design.   

The building recently received a Canadian Architect Award of Merit, which is given to architectural projects that bring innovation to the world of design and balance aesthetics with the effectiveness of social spaces.

Alfred Waugh, principal architect at Formline Architecture and a member of the Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation of Saskatchewan, designed Indigenous House along with LGA Architecture Partners. He drew inspiration for the building’s design from a traditional winter wigwam and longhouse. Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers and local Indigenous communities suggested uses for the space, and also helped advise the architects on aspects of the building’s design.

Once completed, Indigenous House will bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners by supporting and celebrating diverse Indigenous Ways of Knowing locally and from across Turtle Island. It will also offer a place in Scarborough to gather and learn about Indigenous history, culture and ways of knowing.

Claire Weisz, a juror for the award, says the committee looked at many projects designed to serve Indigenous people. “Finding an appropriate and functional architectural expression was not always successful,” says Weisz. “In this case, it is: a new form of architecture consciously emerges from the landscape and looks to Indigenous precedents.”

The 10,700 sq. ft. (994 sq. metre) building will overlook Highland Creek ravine and will have office spaces for Indigenous elders, a student lounge, library, teaching-kitchen and multi-purpose spaces.

The building's natural design aspects will incorporate traditional ways of building, form and durability. It will have a large circular room onto an observation deck that will look into a garden filled with native plants that have cultural significance to Indigenous communities, like tamarack and eastern white pine trees.