Location:                       University of Toronto, Scarborough,ON
Design Completed:    October 2021 
Building Area:             1014sm (10,914sft)

The Indigenous house will be located at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus south of the Instructional Centre and will be visible from Ellesmere Road. The 10,014 square foot space will be placed on a gradually sloping piece of land, it will offer a view of the surrounding Highland Creek ravine. The Indigenous House is an important element in creating inclusive spaces for all in the community, where Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous students, will be able to gather and feel that they belong.

The building will provide spaces for Indigenous students, staff, and faculty, will serve as communal space for suburban and beyond Indigenous community. With a focus on Indigenous scholarship and the revitalization of endangered Indigenous languages, the Indigenous House will provide spaces for learning and Indigenous focused research together with spaces for social connection, reflection, and ceremony. The House will be instructive providing teaching and learning opportunities through its elements of design, orientation, use of symbolism, craft and materiality across all spaces.

During design process the inspiration was drew from the wigwam, which has different permutations depending on the tribe, but most were circular and sometimes they were elongated for larger families or for communal events. Indigenous ways of knowing place nature at the centre of its value system, so this building will flow directly into the surrounding environment through its viewing platforms, gathering spaces and the landscaping.

The structure draws on a traditional winter wigwam with insulated roofs and central campfires built within foundations of rock to retain heat, while a birchbark air shaft allows for fresh air to circulate throughout. The indigenous House combines a heavily insulated outer shell with the geothermal benefits of earth tubes. The building’s fresh air will pass through a concrete totem intake and flow through a series of underground air tubes to help moderate temperatures. Interior curved roof structure that supports the roof and resembles the interior of a wigwam will be made of glulam. A large gathering room will open into a garden that will include birch trees and native plants that have cultural significance to local Indigenous communities. Instead of conventional smoke detectors, there will be sensors that detect heat to enable the cultural practice of smudging throughout the building.

University of Toronto Scarborough Campus

Design Team
Formline Architecture:
Alfred Waugh, Matthew Hunter, Henry Dyck, Nik Langroudi
LGA Architectural Partners:
Janna Levitt, Drew Adams

Structural Engineer: Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
Mechanical Engineer: Integral Group
Electrical Engineer: Integral Group
Civil Engineer: MTE
Landscape: Public Work
Wayfinding: Adams + Associates
Foodservice: Kaizen
Code: LMDG