Douglas Cardinal’s exhibition of the best Turtle Island architects coming to Edmonton


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World-renowned architect Douglas Cardinal was in Edmonton on Friday to announce an upcoming exhibition highlighting Indigenous architecture.

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Just before Canada’s first Truth and Reconciliation Day, the Alberta-born cardinal made the announcement in the newly restored Pendennis Building at 9666 Jasper Ave., now Métis owned by Lorraine Bodnarek and Ed Cyrankiewicz.

Unceded: Voices of the Land is slated to open in this reclaimed space in March, sponsored by RoadShowz, a new urban retail concept supporting Indigenous initiatives, which has hired Cardinal as a consultant.

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First unveiled at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018, the world’s most prestigious architectural exhibition, Unceded: Voices of the Land presents the work of 18 indigenous architects and tells their stories through an immersive multimedia installation.

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The candy colors of the Northern Lights are projected in geometric patterns that dance around the exhibition space and screens integrated into the dedicated walls. Images of the beautiful buildings for which these architects are responsible are interspersed with scenes of mossy forests and salmon running along rivers superimposed with undulating grid lines to show how these natural elements have been interpreted and translated into representative form. Flutes like the songs of birds and soft and rhythmic drums like a soft and regular rain complete the story of our connection with the natural environment and the message delivered by these works.

“Stories made us up so they could be transported across the universe,” said Lewis Cardinal, Edmonton co-lead for Unceded YEG, who addressed the audience on Friday. “When you see yourself in someone else’s story, that’s when we need to build relationships. “

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Stories and relationships, with each other and with the environment, are shared values ​​that inform the work of these architects.

They first came together to submit to the Canada Council for the Arts to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale, and asked Cardinal to be their main presenter. These artists work across Canada and the United States, known as Turtle Island to Indigenous cultures, “because our people had no borders,” Cardinal explained.

From Venice, the exhibition moved to the Canadian Museum of History, a building that Pierre Elliott Trudeau commissioned Cardinal to design in 1989. Facing the Parliament along the banks of the Ottawa River, the curvilinear exterior of the museum echoes the flowing river, illustrating the work of Cardinal embracing our natural environment. It closed there in February of this year, and Edmonton is the facility’s next destination. Cardinal said he would continue to New York, Portland, Oregon and California for years to come.

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Born in Alberta in 1934 of Métis descent, Cardinal’s name may not be immediately recognizable, but his organic buildings are part of our local fabric. He built the Telus World of Science and St. Albert Place, which houses the city government while also acting as an arts and cultural destination.

“To use the soft power of love is stronger than the hard power of strength,” said Cardinal, a message conveyed to him by elders who have always informed his work.

This is a lesson Cardinal also gives the world in these difficult times, insisting that we will only be successful if we “treat the earth and others with great love and kindness.”

“We have to come from our heart in everything we do. “

A visitor gets a preview of the multimedia exhibit Unceded: Voices of the Land, in Edmonton's Pendennis Building, 9660 Jasper Avenue, Friday, September 24, 2021.
A visitor gets a preview of the multimedia exhibit Unceded: Voices of the Land, in Edmonton’s Pendennis Building, 9660 Jasper Avenue, Friday, September 24, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

jfeniak@postmedia.com

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