Canada – Architecture studio HCMA has unveiled a student housing and cultural centre with Indigenous design as a focal consideration. The space, called Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat, is located at the Coast Mountain College on the ancestral lands of the Tsimshian Kitsumkalum First Nation. Its name translates roughly as ‘where learners are content and comfortable’ – a phrase that also reflects its modular, prefrabricated design and central atrium.
The centre is a response to calls for decolonial action and respect for the cultural practices of Indigenous people, as described in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The building itself features over 70 artworks from Indigenous artists, including carvings and murals. Meanwhile, a cultural room provides a safe space for students to share knowledge and cultural practice.
‘Traditionally, architects are used to having authorship over the design expression,’ said HCMA project architect Aiden Callison. ‘When we take a decolonised approach, we find ways to shift that power and develop processes where we take on the role of facilitators of the design process.’ Elsewhere, we previously identified the ways Google is capturing New Zealand’s Indigenous heritage through its inclusive office design.
Beyond student housing, urban developers must find ways to integrate decolonial practices into public spaces from hospitals to retail establishments