November 15, 2013
The new aboriginal centre at Carleton University can accommodate social, cultural and ceremonial events. The space overlooks a widely travelled section of the university campus. The centre was designed by Douglas Cardinal.
Aboriginal centre designed with traditions in mind
An aboriginal centre, designed by Ottawa-based architect Douglas Cardinal with aboriginal cultures and traditions in mind, has opened at Carleton University.
Located in Paterson Hall, the new 1,850-square-foot facility features a series of circular spaces. Circles are a common theme in aboriginal communities.
The largest circle is a gathering space that will be used for social, cultural and ceremonial events. A set of four smaller circular structures will provide a computer lab, as well as work and study spaces for students. A kitchen is also included in the design to facilitate food sharing.
“All of these circles are joined together organically,” Cardinal said via e-mail. “The circles symbolize the respect for each individual that sits in the circle. It also reminds us of the circle of life; we are born and then we die, and life is reborn again.
“The progress of our lives and of nature is a circle. This powerful shape also signifies the sun, the moon and the planets that go around; it’s a symbol of all life.”
Cardinal, who is of Metis and Blackfoot heritage, also designed the iconic Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre currently under construction at the University of Saskatchewan. That centre also is intended as a vibrant and inclusive gathering space that welcomes everyone, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.
Cardinal said this type of project is “near and dear” to his heart.
“I feel it is very important that we recognize the contribution of our indigenous people and the belief that all the races and people of the land should gather together in a circle of peace and harmony.”
The new centre at Carleton is significantly larger than the existing aboriginal lounge.
Built by R.H. Hein Construction, the centre will be a hub for more than 500 aboriginal students and faculty, as well as elders and non-aboriginal members of the Carleton community.
The centre is called Ojigkwanong, which means morning star in Algonquin.
The centre was initially proposed by a task force on aboriginal affairs, comprised of Carleton faculty, staff, students and community members. Members of the Carleton community gave their input into what the centre might look like before the project was handed over to Cardinal.
“I think it’s really tremendous that this is happening here,” Geraldine King, a fourth-year Carleton student in Canadian studies said in a release issued by the university.
“This bigger, more flowing, beautiful and organic space was needed because of the growing size of the aboriginal community here at Carleton. This really was a collaborative effort.”
For its part, the university has adopted an aboriginal strategy that defines the fundamental values governing its relationships with aboriginal peoples and communities.