Indigenous B.C. architects contribute to UNCEDED at Venice Biennale

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      Canada's first Indigenous-led submission to the Venice Biennale in Architecture opens tomorrow (May 26) to the public--and it features a strong presence from B.C. talent.

      Commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts for the world’s most prestigious international architecture competition, UNCEDED: Voices of the Land  is an immersive audio-visual experience featuring the work of 18 Indigenous architects and designers from Turtle Island (Canada and the U.S.).

      The installation tackles issues of colonialism while celebrating Indigenous resilience and the Indigenous worldview as it relates to architecture in all its diverse forms, drawing on talents who trace their heritage back to a variety of First Nations.

      UBC-educated Douglas Cardinal presents the exhibit, which is curated by Gerald McMaster and David Fortin.

      Its participants include Vancouver-based Tlicho Dene architect Ouri Scott, of Urban Arts, who is passionate about sustainability and who recently created an award-winning concept for a net-zero, mixed-use development in Seattle.

      Also taking part is Nisgaa architect Patrick Stewart, who became the first architect of First Nations ancestry to own and operate an architectural firm in B.C. in 1995, and who  later became the first person of First Nations ancestry elected as president of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. He's the design mind behind the totem-flanked Dave Pranteau Aboriginal Children’s Village in Vancouver.

      And Alfred Waugh, of the Fond Du Lac (Denesuline) Nation of northern Saskatchewan, is the other local participant. He's behind West Vancouver's Formline Architecture, a firm that specializes in working on environmentally responsible and culturally sensitive projects. His structures include the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

      Owing to the unavailability of the Canada Pavilion during its restoration, UNCEDED: Voices of the Land will be showing in the Venice Arsenale until November 25. The theme of the 16th Venice Biennale is Freespace, which emphasizes a harmonious relationship between humanity and the rest of nature through architecture.

       “The Canada Council for the Arts is deeply committed to supporting the renewal of the relationship between Indigenous artists, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences, and enhancing dialogues that promote a society that is more just, more inclusive, more innovative. UNCEDED is not only a brilliant and convincing celebration of Indigenous architecture and design, it is a promise of a way forward towards a shared future,” said CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts Simon Brault in a press statement marking the exhibit.

      “I firmly believe that the Indigenous worldview, which has always sought this balance between nature, culture and technology, is the path that humanity must rediscover and adopt for our future. The teachings of the Elders are not the teachings of the past. They are the teachings of the future” stated presenter Douglas Cardinal.