Tlicho architect part of 1st Indigenous-led Canadian entry to Venice Biennale of Architecture

Tlicho architect Ouri Scott is one of 18 Indigenous architects and designers from Canada and the U.S. who are showcasing their work in a collaborative digital exhibit in Venice, Italy.

Ouri Scott one of 18 designers who collaborated on UNCEDED: Voices of the Land

UNCEDED: Voices of the Land rendering by Douglas Cardinal. (Submitted by Douglas Cardinal Architect Inc.)

​Tlicho Dene architect Ouri Scott is one of 18 Indigenous architects and designers from across Canada and the U.S. showcasing their work as part of a collaborative exhibit at a prestigious competition in Venice, Italy.

Their visual digital project, titled UNCEDED: Voices of the Land, is the first-ever Indigenous-led entry to be presented by Canada at the Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Scott, who grew up in Yellowknife and Fort Simpson, N.W.T., said the project is about what it means to be an Indigenous designer — to have a relationship with the land, to work with communities and represent their culture in design.

"That message is that we come from the land, that we've been here since time immemorial and that the land and a relationship with the land is really important to us in the work that we do as architects, as designers," she said.

Ouri Scott, who grew up in Yellowknife and Fort Simpson, N.W.T., said the Venice Biennale of Architecture is like the Olympics for architects. (Submitted by Kim Legler)

"The voice that we're showing is really the community's voice."

UNCEDED: Voices of the Land encompasses several different rooms. It includes video projections which show drone footage of some of the architects' projects and their traditional territories, as well as team members telling their stories.

Scott said the biennale is like the Olympics for architects.

The event began in 1895 and alternates between showcasing international architecture and art every other year. A jury from the Canada Council for the Arts selects the team that represents the country every year.

"It's quite a big honour to be here," Scott said.

The project is presented by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal and curated by Gerald McMaster and David Fortin.

It also features work by other northern architects, including Alfred Waugh, a member of the Fond Du Lac Nation of northern Saskatchewan, and Harriet Burdett-Moulton, a Métis citizen from Cartwright, Nfld., whose work includes Piqqusilirivvik, an Inuit cultural learning facility in Clyde River, on Baffin Island, and St. Jude's Cathedral in Iqaluit.

UNCEDED: Voices of the Land highlights what it means to be an Indigenous architect and designer. (Submitted by Cueyo Laux)

Scott said working with other Indigenous architects and designers has been inspiring, especially as a young architect.

"We spent a lot of time having really interesting discussions about what it means to be an Indigenous architect, what it means to overcome colonialism, what it means to have our traditional territories, what it means to us and what it means to our people," she said.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world will see UNCEDED: Voices of the Land. Scott said, so far, they've received positive responses from Canadians at the biennale.

"They're inspired by a new perspective and touched by our different worldview," she said. "They see it as a new way of looking at reconciliation and understanding what that means for our cities and for our buildings and for our people."

The project was unveiled on May 24 and will be on display in Venice until late November. Scott said the team hopes to also bring their work to communities across Canada.

With files from Joanne Stassen and Lawrence Nayally