Text description provided by the architects. With this project, Mohawk College envisioned a place that celebrates First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture within the everyday experience of the college campus and honors 15,000 years of Indigenous history on this territory. Developed through an inclusive and iterative community consultation process, the HOOP Dance creates a unique outdoor space with deep layers of meaning woven into the fabric of its elements.
Set in the college’s main courtyard, the HOOP Dance Gathering Place was designed with a holistic consideration to landscape, architecture, and the wider context within the college and the city. The design includes five elements: the HOOP Dance Gathering Place open-air pavilion, a fire circle, a water garden, a traditional garden, and a Seven Sisters garden. Its location in the heart of the college’s main quad underscores the importance of Indigenous placemaking as an agent of Reconciliation. The gardens and pavilion are the results of a collaborative and iterative consultation and design process between the designers, the college, Indigenous students, and Elders and members of the Six Nations First Nation and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Communities.
Each element of the pavilion is woven with symbolism. The two radiating, canting structures that form the core of the Gathering Place are aligned to solar noon, the fundamental orientation of a structure marking the passage of time. The interior circle is a collection of up to 6.5 meter long lathed Alaskan Cedar poles, supporting a galvanized ring beam in the form of a Medicine Wheel. An array of circles, referencing the thirteen moons, hovers at the top. Each moon-ring is lit at night, illuminating the platform and any ceremonial installations suspended from the circles. The form and construction reference traditional wood fabrication methods, Indigenous material culture, and the layered spatial organization of the Longhouse.
Alaskan Yellow Cedar, removed of its sapwood, was selected for the structure and cladding for its strength and longevity. The poles are tapered and hand finished to retain the feeling of trees being felled and hand peeled prior to being erected. The bench cladding lumber was dressed to invite sitting and interaction. The veil cladding was left undressed to retain a roughness that suggests more traditional milling techniques. Wood construction allowed for the complete structure to be fabricated and pre-constructed off-site, resulting in a significantly reduced construction time on site.
The resolution of structure required meticulous coordination between the design team, the structural engineer, and the timber contractors. Capturing the spirit of motion while ensuring the 6.5m tall structure’s stability—and concealing the connections in an outdoor, free-standing structure—was a challenge demanding careful calculations and minute tolerances. The HOOP Dance Gathering Place aspires to be a welcoming place for all, respecting our past, present, and looking toward Canada’s future.