Powwow Arbour Receives Global Recognition
- Local Journalism Initiative - Campbell Stevenson | December 20, 2023
A powwow arbour design earned the province its first international nod at this year’s Holcim North American Region, Sustainable Construction Awards in Venice, Italy.
Saskatchewan-based Oxbow Architecture picked up the Acknowledgement Award for the building they designed for the Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation on Nov. 18.
To get to the awards, involves a strict screening process.
This year, seventy countries participated with 2,300 submissions made, and of those, only 500 met the sustainable-construction criteria.
“Only four were chosen per continent,” said Myke Agecoutay, President and CEO of Muscowpetung Saulteaux Business Developments. “So, Muscowpetung sits in the company of great projects worldwide.”
The community was invited to witness the awards via video stream and although it placed fourth it was still a momentous occasion for everyone.
“Going back to our initial intent of this project, we originally created it because of the need to have powwows in our community…but the accolades it’s picked up since is just overwhelming,” said Agecoutay. “It’s nice to feel appreciated and that our project has hit the world’s stage again.”
The design earned the Award of Excellence in 2022 from the Canadian Architect Awards in Montreal and the 2022 Future Projects – Culture Award at the World Architecture Festival in Lisbon, Portugal.
Agecoutay said it was the first time an architectural firm from Saskatchewan won the Canadian Architect-Award of Excellence.
Brad Pickard, the Project Architect recently returned from the award presentation in Venice.
“This recent award really speaks volumes, because it’s a sustainable construction and design award,” he said. “Working with indigenous communities, and Muscowpetung in particular, their values are already aligned with sustainable design.”
Under the mentorship of renown architect Richard Kroeker at Dalhousie in Nova Scotia, Pickard has integrated Indigenous beliefs and traditions into his work.
“There’s a lot of low carbon intensity materials that we’ve been introducing into the project, like timber,” he said. “So just trying to find ways to really embed sustainable design practice into their projects.”
Pickard has witnessed the transformative impact of Indigenous design in architecture and is seeing a notable evolution in the field.
“When I did my undergrad, it was very Eurocentric… high design was through the lens of European high technology,” he said. “But now there’s Indigenous knowledge that is actually getting us to rethink the complex way that we tackle buildings.”
Pickard appreciates the shift.
“It’s super interesting how Indigenous values are aligned with the most relevant projects of our time right now,” he said.
Projects of this caliber prove to be difficult, and more expensive than projected.
However, Agecoutay remains determined to see the project through.
“We received 100% funding from CHRT (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal) and that was to the tune of $3.187 million,” he said.
However, due to inflation and rising costs the budget has increased by 20 per cent.
“The nation will be having to coupe those extra costs,” said Agecoutay. “We’ve never had this much spotlight on Muscowpetung, and we’re certainly going to embrace it and take that responsibility seriously.”
The site of where the powwow arbour is located one-kilometre east on South Valley Road.
The official groundbreaking ceremony took place on Nov. 9.
Construction is expected to continue throughout the winter and to be completed by the end of summer.
The inaugural powwow is on track to happen late fall next year.