The innovative Amiskwaciy Academy was born out of a need for a junior high and high school experience centred around Indigenous teaching and culture. The academy is an urban First Nations high school, the first of its kind in Canada, designed with the intention of serving Metis, First Nations, and Inuit youth within Edmonton and across Western Canada.
The Academy posed a fascinating challenge: to create a comfortable and sustainable learning environment for 8 000 students in an abandoned airport terminal—and to do it in eight months! Our workshopping process involves extensive consultation and collaboration with Elders, students, and educators to create a beautiful, culturally rich, and unique learning experience.
INVITING INDIGENOUS BEAUTY
“How do we help people to forget that they’re in an air terminal?” We returned to this central question frequently throughout the design process. Our reimagining strategy included a series of earth and masonry screens that effectively blend with the environment while shielding students and staff from the sight and noise of the neighbouring commuter airport. The sweat lodge we designed to emulate the traditional woven willow reed structures found across the prairies in its geometry, orientation, and articulation and serves to connect the students and staff to their Indigenous heritage. We recycled materials and restored existing spaces wherever possible, as well as updating mechanical and electrical systems geared towards high-efficiency performance, creating a healthy and sustainable space that lives lightly upon the earth.