Facilitating Cultural Transformation: Redefining Indigenous identity through Architecture
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This investigation of a Canadian contemporary indigenous building has findings that are relevant to cross-cultural architecture in Australia and New Zealand. As a result of being colonised by the British at around the same time, there are similarities in the socio-political policies dispossessing indigenous people of their cultural identity in these countries. The investigation begins by examining the role played by the built environment in reaffirming identity while raising the question of how the built environment may be supportive in the quest to solve problems created by a forced dislocation from community, land, language and belief systems. The paper examines the ways indigenous peoples in North America are formulating environments that suit their current concerns. Currently, fuelled by a cultural revival within Canada’s aboriginal people, native-determined buildings are growing in number. Within the movement to rebuild and redefine First Nations culture there is recognition by cultural theorists that the built environment is an important vehicle to inform and reflect cultural concerns. How architecture plays a role in cultural rebuilding and communication is explored through this case study of The First Nations Longhouse at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada. The Longhouse was a conscious effort to articulate contemporary First Nations cultural identity. In response to the limited number of First Nations students participating in post-secondary education, UBC decided to transform the First Nations experience of education from one of assimilation to one of self-expression and self-determination. The past assimilation experience was the education of Indians by non-Indians using non-Indian methods, whereas presently a bicultural educational framework is being developed. At UBC both aboriginal and immigrant ways of learning are blended and embedded in mainstream courses across certain faculties. Case study methods were deployed to investigate how pedagogy, process and the built environment contribute to cultural rebuilding
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