HOOP Dance Indigenous Gathering Place
Photo Credits: ArchDaily
Initial Research by: Evan McPherson
Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans
Case study compiled in 2019
Project: HOOP Dance Indigenous Gathering Place
Type of Urban Strategy: Indigenous
Type of Project: Indigenous Resurgence
Location: Hamilton, Ontario
Date Designed/Planned: 2015-2016
Construction Completed: 2016
Designer: Brook McIlroy
Located on Mohawk College campus, the HOOP Dance Gathering Place demonstrates how Western institutions are beginning to invest and recognize the importance of Indigenous placemaking and pedagogy in an academic setting. The project was developed through a collaborative community consultation process, driven between faculty, students, Indigenous students and elders from Six Nations First Nation and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Communities. Brook McIlroy worked with these stakeholders to develop a holistic design with intended efforts to integrate site context and surrounding geographies.
The projects total cost was $650,000. Three groups contributed to funding efforts, Mohawk College, Mohawk Students Association and a private donor (Fragomeni, 2016).
GOAL OF THE PROJECT
GENESIS OF PROJECT
Located on Mohawk College campus, the HOOP Dance Gathering Place
demonstrates how western institutions have created and recognized the importance of Indigenous placemaking and pedagogy in an academic setting. The project was developed through a collaborative community consultation process, driven by faculty, students, Indigenous students and elders from Six Nations First Nation and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Communities. Brook McIlroy worked with these stakeholders to develop a holistic design with intended efforts to integrate site context and surrounding geographies.
The HOOP dance gathering space is defined with a circular form, a direct symbol from First Nations culture. The intention was to create a place for gathering, “teaching, music, story-telling, ceremony, relaxation and contemplation”. A wooden shading structure creates a sense of enclosure through the use of an abstracted and deconstructed Iroquian longhouse housing type. This domestic structure was traditionally built using different layers, including framing and a woven or thatch wall, this detail is referenced in the project with the light wooden members forming the dynamic veil that drapes across the frame. It is clear there is historic symbolism imbued throughout the entire project from form to fabrication. However, with such symbolic and traditional intentions, the logs were prepared to look hand finished and shipped all the way from the West Coast, British Columbia.
Situated around the structure is a series of four elements: a fire circle, water garden, traditional garden and Seven Sisters garden. The intention is to create a welcoming space that acknowledges all, respecting past, present and future. Each element has direct symbolism attached to it. The structures radiating circular rings are aligned and set at a variety of angles, all aligning to solar noon. By placing the columns on these diagonals, there is a perceived sense of motion and a reference to the animate nature of being, another reference to Indigenous culture. The top of the structure is held together by a large metal ring, symbolizing the medicine wheel which is oriented towards the true north direction. One of the most unique aspects is the use of 13 metal rings that adorn the top. These rings symbolize the 13 moons. After daylight, these rings are lit with light. Alaskan Yellow Cedar was chosen due to its strength and longevity. Each pole was tapered and finished by hand. The complete wood construction allowed the structure the ability to assemble off-site, reducing construction time.
DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS
ROLE OF DESIGNERS
The project has been celebrated by the community and the college, with the impact of the project highlighting the importance of Indigenous placemaking as an act of reconciliation. Indigenous students (of which there are approximately 400) on campus review the space as a welcoming sign and movement towards progress.
(Mohawk College, n.d.)
MAINTENANCE AND MANAGEMENT
The project is maintained by Mohawk College. The designers placed longevity at the forefront of the design decision process, this is one reason why imported Alaskan Yellow Cedar was chosen, for its structural integrity and durability.
Fragomeni, C. (2016). Hoop Dance gathering place at Mohawk College offers hope. [online] TheSpec.com. Available at: https://www.thespec.com/news-story/6733753-hoop-dance-gathering-place-at-mohawk-college-offers-hope/ [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].