Pictou Landing Health Center
by Giancarlo La Giorgia
The new medical clinic and community center in the Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia recalls a longhouse, the traditional winter lodge of the Mi'kmaq.
Sustainably harvested spruce poles, six to eight inches (15 to 20 centimeters) in diameter, are bent and lashed together at the tops. Like a giant wooden model of a whale's ribcage, clad with rows of oversized spruce shingles, the peaked frame is an adaptation of traditional Native bent-wood construction.
The Pictou Landing Health Centre serves a community of just over 400 Mi'kmaq residents. With the area's economy largely based on fishing, about 80 percent of the people on the reservation are either unemployed or underemployed.
The building was designed by architects Brian Lilley and Richard Kroeker of Piskwepaq Design Inc., (PDI), with associate firm Peter Henry Architects, for clients Health Canada and the First Nation's Band Council. Lilley and Kroeker emphasize that the center's connection to the people it serves is more than just skin deep.
"The design was less of a stylized version of the Native longhouse than an exploration of indigenous building forms," says Lilley. "The building owes its shape not to an attempt to mimic traditional forms, but to the bending capacity of the wooden truss system."
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