How Indigenous architects are resisting colonial legacies and reshaping spaces

This week on Unreserved, we're talking with Indigenous people who are reshaping spaces and reframing how we look at architecture.
Patrick Stewart (left) Eladia Smoke (centre) and Douglas Cardinal (right) are just three of the faces of Indigenous architecture in Canada today. This week on the show, find out how they are helping reframe how we see structures on Turtle Island. (Submitted by Patrick Stewart, Submitted by Eladia Smoke, CBC)

This episode originally aired on April 4, 2021.

From resisting the colonial legacy of architecture, to integrating Indigenous principles into buildings. This week on Unreserved, we're talking with Indigenous people who are reshaping spaces and reframing how we look at architecture.

Douglas Cardinal is considered one of the most important Indigenous architects on Turtle Island. He designed his first building more than 50 years ago. Since then, he's received just about every award for his work. The Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, Que., is a building that Cardinal calls a second home. Unreserved's Zoe Tennant recorded an interview with him inside the museum, before the pandemic.

Some of the world's most famous architecture is thousands of years old. While many structures have stood the tests of time, others weren't intended to — like the tipi. The structure of the Cree tipi has remained unchanged because it holds special meaning. For her master's thesis, Krystel Clark explored that meaning, and its unique relationship with the natural elements.

Architect Eladia Smoke is Anishinaabekwe from Obishikokaang, or Lac Seul First Nation. She's the principal architect of Smoke Architecture, an Anishinaabeg owned and operated architecture firm that focuses on Indigenous projects. It's a focus that Eladia brings into the classroom, too; Eladia teaches at Laurentian University's McEwen School of Architecture, a program that centres Indigenous principles in its curriculum. 

In a profession with so few Indigenous people, collectives for a unified voice become even more important. Some students at the Yale School of Architecture felt the same way. The Indigenous Scholars of Architecture, Planning and Design started as a way to connect Indigenous designers, planners and architects with one another. They focus on increasing the knowledge, consciousness and appreciation of Indigenous architecture at the school. Summer Sutton and Anjelica Gallegos are two of the three students who founded the group. 

Patrick Stewart is an architect with many firsts. He was the first Indigenous president of an architectural association in Canada, the first Indigenous president of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, and the first Indigenous person in BC to own and operate an architectural firm. Patrick, who is Nisga'a, is also a professor of architecture at Laurentian University. His list of accomplishments is long, and his journey to get there has been long, too. 

This week's playlist:

Shawnee. (Courtesy of artist)

Shawnee - Building a Wall

N'we Jinan - Home to Me 

Northern Haze - Tupiq