Spirit Garden

Thunder Bay, Ontario

Photo Credits: Brook McIlroy

CASE STUDY

Initial Research by: Desiree Theriault

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019

 

 

Project: Spirit Garden

Type of Urban Strategy: Indigenous 

Type of ProjectIndigenous Resurgence / Ecological Remediation

LocationThunder Bay, Ontario

Date Designed/Planned: 2006

Construction Completed: 2010

DesignerBrook McIlroy

 

The Spirit Garden is a waterfront park that looks to revitalize the shorelines of Lake Superior, provide access to the water, and create a space of gathering for the surrounding community. The work evolved as a collective collaboration between Fort William First Nation, Robinson Superior Treaty Communities and the Red Sky Metis alongside Brook McIlroy's studio landscape architects. The project looked to become a catalyst for Indigenous urbanism within Canada by implementing shared control over process and product with Indigenous communities to contribute to Indigenous culture and reconciliation. The project features a healing garden which utilizes historical and native fauna of the land to stabilize the river banks, a fire circle for ceremonial practices, medicine garden for land-based education opportunities; and an amphitheatre gathering circle for Indigenous-Settler reciprocity, as well as celebrations and showcase of Indigenous history on the land. The result is a project that respects cultural differences and reclaims Indigenous identity without the use of cliché motifs and allegory. Rather, it is a product of reconciliation through the act of landscape architecture. (Canadian Institute of Planners, 2012)

 

The power of the design comes through in its process and design development phase which is sensitively organized by Brook McIlroy to bring together community members, Elders, and council members from Fort William First Nation, Robinson-Superior Treaty and Red Sky Metis. As a collective entity, the community and architects began extensive design charrettes to unveil and recover core values from the surrounding urban Indigenous populations of Thunder Bay. (Canadian Institute of Planners, 2012)

 

The design was activated through three stages which involved:

 

  1. The assemblage of shared Indigenous histories, stories and values;

  2. Implementation of Indigenous building knowledge; and;

  3. The goal to revitalize important discourse within the City.

 

Together, these stages began to culturally ground the project and provoked an awakening in the urban fabric of downtown. (Canadian Institute of Planners, 2012)