Situated next to a former residential school, Algoma University’s Makwa Waakaa’igan Indigenous Centre of Cultural Excellence will be a hub for teaching and learning, truth telling, healing, cultural preservation, and transformation. In the traditional teachings of many Indigenous peoples, water is the origin of life, and the directions of the medicine wheel embody concepts relating to the cycle of the seasons, the stages of life, the interconnectedness of all things, and the need for balance in our lives. These ideas find expression in the competition-winning design by Moriyama Teshima Architects and Smoke Architecture (architects) and PLANT Architect and Trophic Design (landscape architects).

The building’s name means “bear’s den” in Anishinaabemowin. Makwa Waakaa’igan’s organic form evokes Makwa, the bear – medicine carrier, protector, and healer – rising from the ground. An extensive green roof, with a gathering circle nestled into large shrubs and planted mounds, merges the architecture into the landscape. The view from the rooftop’s gathering circle extends south to the wide St. Marys River.

Site plan

Pathways around the building link to four exterior focal points, aligned with the medicine wheel’s cardinal directions. To the west, near the main entrance, a fern-carpeted birch grove surrounds a memorial to the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children taken from their families and forced to attend Shingwauk Hall residential school. The other focal points are a gathering arbour (south); an open-air classroom and wood fire grill in the forest (east); and an arbour with an oculus open to the sky above a rock that held special significance to the children of Shingwauk Hall (north). Originating in the north, a linear water feature traces a curve around the building, passing first through dry meadowland and then into wet meadowland along the forest edge, where it flows into a pond.
Sweetgrass braids inspired the landscape’s intertwining pathways. As they weave through the site, these paths invite reflection on the colonial past from the vantage points of an empowering present, and the envisioning of a sustainable future.

Concept Diagram
Winter view of building in the landscape
View of entry across the landscape

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alcina Garden
  7. Alexandra Park
  8. Aporia Records
  9. Ardwick Townhouses
  10. Asphalt Poetry
  11. – Poem
  12. Baby Point Gardens
  13. Beach Garden
  14. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  15. Beaty Residence
  16. Bennington Hts Garden
  17. Bennington Hts Ravine Garden 1
  18. Berkeley Street Residence
  19. Bin-Scarth Garden
  20. Blink and you miss it.
  21. – Poem
  22. Block 22 Landscape
  23. Bloor St. Apartment
  24. Blue Note
  25. Booth Avenue Residence
  26. Boustrophedon Garden
  27. Braemore Gardens Residence
  28. Brahms Townhouses
  29. Browning Avenue Residence
  30. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  31. Camp Arowhon Offices
  32. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  33. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  34. Chocolate Loft
  35. City Instrument
  36. Clarendon Garden
  37. Conversation Piece
  38. Cortleigh Boulevard Garden
  39. Creemore Farm
  40. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  41. Dickson Park Garden
  42. Dilworth Residence
  43. Don Landing Revitalization
  44. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  45. Duncanwoods Townhouses
  46. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  47. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  48. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  49. Eglinton Ave. Forecourt
  50. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  51. Elizabeth Fry Society
  52. Ellsworth Residence
  53. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  54. First Avenue Garden
  55. First Avenue Residence
  56. Flyover Canada
  57. Foote’s Pond Wood
  58. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  59. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  60. Global Affairs Monument
  61. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  62. Gormley Garden
  63. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  64. Greener P
  65. Greer Road Garden
  66. Greer Road Residence
  67. Guelph Bridge
  68. Head in the Clouds
  69. Helena Ave Residence 4
  70. Jackman Institute of Child Study
  71. Jean Tweed Addition + Laneway House
  72. Junction Craft Brewery
  73. Kelpies Competition
  74. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  75. King's Landing Apartment
  76. Kipling & Islington Developments
  77. Lakeport Beach Neighbourhood
  78. Le jardin du repos
  79. Lenticular Curtain
  80. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  81. Liberty Village Parkettes
  82. Liza’s Garden
  83. Lynwood Garden
  84. Macroscape
  85. Makwa Waakaa'igan
  86. Markham Garden One
  87. Markham Street Residence Two
  88. Massey College Landscape Restoration
  89. May Street Ravine
  90. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  91. Montreal Holocaust Memorial Competition
  92. Mount Dennis Parkettes
  93. Mulock Park
  94. Nathan Phillips Square
  95. – Streetscape
  96. – Peace Garden
  97. – Podium Roof Garden
  98. Octane Medical Campus
  99. Orchard View Garden
  100. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  101. Owl Cottage
  102. Paperstone Scissors
  103. Pendrith Residence
  104. Peripheral Sitings
  105. Pottery Road Crossing
  106. rare
  107. Ravine Forecourt
  108. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  109. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  110. Roxborough Garden One
  111. Roxborough Garden Two
  112. Schulich School of Business
  113. Sheridan College
  114. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  115. Spadina Quay Wetland
  116. St. Anne's Road Garden
  117. St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
  118. Stratford Market Square Competition
  119. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  120. Superkids Dental
  121. Superlegible
  122. Sweet Farm
  123. Sweet Farm Pond House
  124. Swift Medical Offices
  125. The Meadows Reconsidered
  126. The Red Sash
  127. Thick & Thin
  128. Thistletown II Townhouses
  129. Tipping Point
  130. TMU Centre for Urban Innovation
  131. TMU Science Building
  132. Tranby Garden
  133. Tree House Residence
  134. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  135. UHN Tunnels
  136. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  137. Venice Biennale 2012
  138. Vermont Square Park
  139. Vernon Avenue Garden
  140. Walk the Walk
  141. Walmer Road Residence
  142. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  143. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  144. Wells Street Residence
  145. Westminster Residence
  146. Weston Village BIA Masterplan
  147. With Words as Their Actions
  148. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  149. Woven Stories
  150. Wynford Drive Residences
  151. York Park
  152. Yorkwoods Townhouses