Kawai’piksit Centre

Alissa Coldham & Jesse Poitre | Comprehensive Studio 2013

Thomas Debicki | Faculty Supervisor



Kawai’piksit (meaning “open the door” in Blackfoot) Centre for Research in Resource Conservation is located in the West Village of Calgary, and will educate the students through an aboriginal lens by incorporating First Nations views of the environment and connections to the land as well as the traditional responsiveness to resource efficiency in times of scarcity. We want to develop youth’s understanding and proficiency in current resource conservation methods in order to prepare them for involvement in the further development of these technologies as well as encouraging new ways of thinking about man’s relationship with nature. Situated on the Bow River, this KCCRC is close to natural and human resources. In its central location, the Centre will celebrate aboriginal views of the environment and transmit those ideas to the greater Calgarian population. This will serve to challenge the traditional wasteful views of oil and energy consumption that have dominated this area for the last century. The KCCRC will provide the First Nations community in Calgary with a centre that will not only promote advancements in the future of sustainable energy production methods but will also stimulate the development and pride of the aboriginal youth into this fast developing field.
Sustainability (environmentally, economically, and socially) is achieved through the aforementioned as well as integration into the community through new amenities. A canoe rental program headquarters here, as well as a bike share hub. The amphitheatre provides event space which can be observed from canoes floating in the new channel. On the south of the building, a totpool nestles into the building. Generally, the site is divided through an algorithmic predication of pedestrian desire lines which necessitated the burying of 7th Ave. South of 7th (part of our site) is a multiuse pedestrian mall connecting them to the LRT station.
Several erratic’s on site reflect the tipi ring and the big rock in Okotoks, while forming part of our necessary building structure. The primary structure of the Kawai’piksit Centre is made of interlacing glulam arched beams in order to mimic the nature of the surrounding pathways that weave throughout the building and site. Giant wood glulam beams were chosen to mimic the primary structure of a traditional tipi. This allows for large open spaces beneath to be flexible and open, like a tipi. Similarly, red leather exterior cladding references the tipi, but also screams “landmark”. The height is built to the maximum 16m (before shadowing the river) to provide additional floors for expansion. The secondary structural glulam contour beams stiffen the twisting arched primary beams against rolling while allowing indirect light to enter through thin stripwindows. The interior bubble is supported through hanging from the arching beams and is composed of a triple later ETFE polymer on a tensile cable net. The ETFE is nearly as transparent as glass, but significantly lighter. The clear spans of the primary structure allow for maximum versatility as the ETFE can be modified as needed. The building is basically a fully conditioned bubble within an environmentally separated but unconditioned bubble. The unconditioned space maintains a comfortable temperature though exhaust air from the conditioned space in both summer and winter. This unconditioned space becomes a comfortable open and inviting environment to the public throughout the year.