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Indigenous cultural centre named international design winner

Mukwa Waakaa’igan Indigenous Centre for Cultural Excellence lauded by World Architecture Festival

The Mukwa Waakaa’igan Indigenous Centre for Cultural Excellence in Sault Ste. Marie is being recognized on the international stage for excellence in architectural design.

Proposed to be completed in 2024, the facility will be a hub for the work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, which is focused on cataloguing and teaching the history of Canada’s residential school system and envisions the centre as a place for healing, cultural preservation, dialogue, and transformation.

Once complete, the facility will also serve as the new home for the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre archives and Aboriginal Healing Foundation Collection.

It will be located on the Sault Ste. Marie campus of Algoma University.

Announced in early October, the centre was one of 20 building designs chosen for a 2022 World Architecture Festival (WAFX) Award

Mukwa Waakaa’igan was selected in the Future Project: Education category and is now shortlisted for the overall WAFX Award, which will be granted during the World Architecture Festival, to be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Conceptualized by Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Smoke Architecture, the design takes into account Indigenous teachings, from building form to material selection.

According to the project proposal, “Mukwa”, which means the bear in Anishinaabemowin, is a carrier of medicine, and as such a healer; “Waakaa’igan” refers to its lodge or den.

“The new cultural centre’s architectural expression comes from the land, rising up through three paths that represent the past, present, and future, and standing above the residential school,” reads the project description. “This lifted position provides visitors a stronger, more dominant, and dignified vantage point from which to look upon the site’s history.”

With sustainability in mind, the project will feature the use of mass timber in its construction, which is hailed for its insulation properties and sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.

The design “blurs the lines” between indoor and outdoor spaces, notes the proposal, creating various areas for learning, gathering, ceremony and contemplation throughout the site.

Valued at $18 million, the centre will be built with funds from the provincial and federal governments, along with Algoma University.

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