Completion: 2011
Owner: Royal Roads University

Aboriginal Gathering Place

View from beach

The Aboriginal Learning and Cultural Centre, known as The Gathering Place, at Royal Roads University, Victoria, enjoys an inspirational setting on the edge of Esquimalt Lagoon, with delightful views in every direction. The design converts a wood frame row boat storage building into a vibrant multi-purpose space: a focal point for Aboriginal student ceremonies, counselling and teaching programs.

Entry canopyGathering room entry Gathering room

The simple building massing and open-truss vaulted interior reference the traditional aboriginal Plank House: a simple large volume, housing many different uses. Wide full height windows enhance awareness of the natural environment outside.

Arrival is signalled by an elegant cedar entry canopy, with glazing staggered like large cedar shingles. The solid entry door clad with vertical cedar planks, implies a secure place to be, while the glazing around the door brings in light and evening sun. Future glazed cedar canopy structures are planned, to extend the useable space even in inclement weather. The simple cedar plank clad exterior will weather and age gracefully over time.


True to the Plank House inspiration, interior walls are expressed as small fenced/screened enclosures within one large space. Reclaimed fir slat walls extend to door height, with frameless glazing above, creating a light, open feel to the space, achieving acoustic privacy with walls that appear to never touch the ceiling.

The university had a stockpile of reclaimed fir that was used extensively inside. A local lumber mill planed and wire-brushed the fir to a deep grain finish, to express and enhance the texture of the fir grain. Large profile pieces were used for structural heavy timber framing around window and door openings, as well as the single piece stair treads. Smaller reclaimed fir was used for wall slats, trims and baseboards.

Unfinished reclaimed woodStairs from reclaimed wood - detail

Related work: First Nations Higher Education