MArch Studio Iv: comprehensive studio / Professor alan collyer / team: Shea gibson & Hayden pattullo / winter 2017

The Moh Kin T’sis Gathering House is an architectural proposal for the Fort Calgary site grounds, developed in close collaboration with local Treaty 7 First Nations with the aim of using the shared tool of language to achieve cross cultural reconciliation between Canadian indigenous people and European descendants, while at the same time providing Calgarian indigenous groups a facility that respects their right to cultural autonomy. Historically, Fort Calgary is unique in Canadian history as a site that saw both the archetypically negative relations between indigenous peoples and European immigrants, as well as some of the more rare positive interactions seen through trade performed on the historic fort site. The central key to this trade was a visual iconographic language that could be mutually understood through both indigenous and European cultural lenses.

Today, the fort physically and metaphorically stands as the mitigating territory between the significant indigenous landmark of the river confluence (the "Moh Kin-Tsis," translated to "Elbow") and the imposing modern Euro-centric city typology. As such, the Moh Kin T’sis Gathering House proposal utilizes the tool of language to re-appropriate the fort as a negotiating territory between different cultures: a legible procession space through which European descendants can undertake a journey of learning, indigenous peoples can independently preserve their traditions and language, and various cultures can intersect for a mutual journey of healing and understanding.

Thus, the Moh Kin T’sis Gathering House is an urban home and a beacon for indigenous cultural learning for both indigenous and non-indigenous people, designed to remember, honour, and safeguard indigenous culture and language. It is an architecture that celebrates the proud history and autonomy of indigenous peoples, recognizes the cultural and historic significance of “place,” and embraces the hope and promise of reconciliation; it is an architecture of dialogue to inspire conversation.

a transformative beacon of language

With the primary adjacency in this scheme being between the architectural intervention and the art installation marking the original Fort Calgary barracks, the pathway between these two territories is flanked with series' of commissioned indigenous translucent tapestry artworks hung between large timber elements. The timber structural elements (like the art installation) echo the cadence of the original fort log construction, while the translucent tapestries present a symbolic dialogue towards the fort, sun-shading during the day, and light-induced outward projections of the art at night.

However, this communicative strategy changes for each main adjacency, where the city-facing main entry side utilizes vertical wood shading fins are inscribed with traditional indigenous stories in various languages for passing users, and the river-facing side features minimalist free facades that allow users visually unimpeded connection to the landscape, keeping true to indigenous beliefs.

respect for the land

Taking inspiration from both the diverse historic nature of the site and from Canadian indigenous beliefs, the massing of each building in plan is driven by the intensity and proximity of the three main site adjacencies (the river elbow, the Calgary downtown, and the Fort Calgary barracks), while its elevational quality is based on using the gently sloping topography to navigate from the barracks high ground to the low flood fringe, creating architecture that responds distinctly to the various contextual influences.

The stepped form gives increased light and views towards the natural  end of the site through clerestory windows, while the green roofs lift the natural landscape and prairie grass views. Furthermore, the raising of the outdoor paths and the ungrounded exterior facades creates the notion of the architecture and its users being lifted off the ground, indicating respect for the natural land. It is only at the end of the scheme in the sacred healing space that users descend to the ground.