Reaffirming Culture through a Community-based Housing Design Process

By Amanda McLeod, Jessica Hein and Carol Kauppi.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A community-based design process resulted in housing designs that offer a northern response to the dwelling culture and housing shortage of the Cree community in Moosonee, Ontario, Canada. In addition to the design charrette, the housing designs are informed by a study of contemporary and traditional Cree material and dwelling culture, research on climate and environment, and an analysis of existing housing in Moosonee. The design charrette with northern indigenous people encouraged them to think about their cultural heritage and its relationship to their housing needs. Using art-based methods, including drawing, modelling and sculpting techniques, the participants designed their ideal houses as an activity involving cultural re-appropriation. Encouraging discussion of memories of their cultural heritage helped participants to overcome feelings of discrimination from others and alienation from place. The architectural designs emerging from this project centre on housing as a response to Cree material culture, social structure, and ways of experiencing the land. The traditional forms found within the snowshoe, the canoe, the tipi and the shaapuhtuwaan inspired the creative process and the design of culturally appropriate housing. This article summarizes results from the research activities conducted in October 2010 and February 2011 with Cree people from several First Nation communities on the western James Bay in Northern Ontario, Canada, and includes images of housing models created by the participants. It also presents the housing designs and investigates the myriad ways in which architecture can act as a cultural tool that reaffirms a sense of place and responds to living patterns and the northern climate.

Keywords: Community-based design, architecture, design charrette, northern communities, Cree culture, Indigenous Canadians, Moosonee, cultural re-appropriation, First Nation housing shortage, culturally appropriate housing, temporary structures, material culture, dwelling culture

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 9, Issue 2, January 2015, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.105MB).

Amanda McLeod

Housing Policy Researcher, Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Jessica Hein

Research Associate, Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Carol Kauppi

Professor, School of Social Work, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Carol Kauppi is Professor of Social Work and Director of the Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy at Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Her research interests have focussed in recent years mainly on girlhood, adolescence, motherhood and homelessness in northern communities. Professor Kauppi is also the Director of a five-year research project dealing with homelessness and migration in northern Ontario. She has published many articles and reports dealing with homelessness and housing, racism, family issues, young mothers, parenting including postpartum depression, and child and family poverty in Sudbury and northern Ontario. Between 2003 and 2008, she completed a multi-year, province-wide and national project on girlhood.