Western University, Indigenous Learning and Research Centre Renovation


Drawing inspiration from the Anishnawbe concept, ‘All Our Relations’ – a teaching that reminds human beings that we are interconnected with and interdependent on both each other and all of nature – Western University is repurposing space at Althouse College to create a touchstone for Indigenous peoples and communities to engage with Western. Advancing Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation, the project will foster a true sense of community and diversity. Given the significance of this undertaking, architects Tillmann Ruth Robinson has associated with Tawaw Architecture Collective Principal Wanda Dalla Costa to guide this process of engagement and co-design. A member of the Saddle Lake First Nation, Wanda is the first First Nations woman to achieve architectural registration in Canada, and has become a leading authority in Indigenous design. 

Working with 10,000 square feet identified for renovation in the north east corner of Althouse Faculty of Education building, we developed a design concept for a highly visible and distinctive circular structure that reflects Indigenous identity while still making use of an existing architectural asset. Three levels of indoor space include a ground/main floor open concept gathering area, a second level mezzanine area, and a lower level with space to accommodate teaching/learning spaces and offices. Through stakeholder consultation, we identified regional Indigenous architectural precedents to reflect in a contemporary and expressive way. As our team understands the importance of Indigenous architecture addressing not only a building’s interior and form, but also view and access to the outdoors, new exterior landscapes will weave together outdoor classrooms with Medicine Gardens and ceremonial space.