Douglas Cardinal: Architect of the Future

Join us on for an intimate conversation with world-renowned architect, Douglas Cardinal. Hosted by Engineers Canada and the Canadian Urban Institute

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Nature has an infinite variety of solutions

When designing, Douglas Cardinal finds inspiration by looking at each space as a cell within an organism and identifying connections that allow a specific plant or animal to thrive within that environment. His inspiration from nature goes beyond conceptual design and into problem-solving. For example, the design of St Mary’s Church was inspired by a spider web he found while out for walk, and admired its ability to support loads through tension. At the time, he was told the design would be impossible to construct. Utilizing the best engineers, computers and innovation, the unbuildable design materialized into the beautiful St Mary’s Church that stands today in Red Deer, Alberta. Although disciplines have many systems and processes, it is very important to look to nature, which as Douglas reminds us, “has an infinite variety of solutions” serving as inspiration to how we think about structure, mechanical and electrical design challenges.

2. Importance of listening to the people we design for

Douglas emphasized the importance of learning about different cultures. We often see one-way communication from the government telling Indigenous peoples what is best, but settler culture can also learn a lot from Indigenous knowledge. It is important to listen to the people we design cities for, so they can tell us what they need. Douglas shared a memory of coming across a government publication describing a house design and how to live in it. He recalls being concerned about the government’s attempt to solve peoples problem and says “it’s the new phase of Colonization 201, we already went through 101, a stage of having a bunch of intellects solve our problems for us, instead of asking us.” While there is value in awareness and design solutions, Douglas reiterated that many problems, such as the housing issue, “can’t be solved in Ottawa.” Those in power need to go to the communities and listen.

3. Planners and architects have a crucial role in reconciliation

Douglas compares our current city building practices to the cancer virus, often exploiting the planet and ignoring the health of our environment for the sake of development. However, we have also been gifted the power of creativity. He says, “We have to put our ego aside and the idea that we’re dominant over nature and understand that we are nature, that we evolved from all life on this planet.” The role of urban planners needs to focus on organic designs, learning to be in harmony with nature. In the documentary, Douglas Cardinal: Architect of the Future, Alex Janvier, an Indigenous artist who worked with Douglas, shares how they went to a highrise in 1962 and decided to change the world, using architecture and art as their medium. These ideas materialized in the Canadian History Hall, where a space that feels like water is used to tell the new Canadian story, highlighting not only the trauma but also the resurgence and strength of indigenous peoples. “We have this planet that needs to be preserve and save. And we have to start now,” warned Douglas.

4. Need for more diversity and women in architecture

Architecture remains a field dominated by males, lacking people of colour and female representation. It is important to stop creating architecture as monuments of patriarchal power over nature and create buildings as symbols of love and caring. Douglas says, “My elders taught me that the hard part of force is not as powerful as the soft power of loving and caring.” Douglas’s work follows the Indigenous tradition of honouring the female form and female values, in his matrilineal culture. He argues that we need more diversity in design fields that include maternal values that women have to offer. Douglas is very proud of how indigenous people value women and the gift economy they provide through creating life and nurturing it. Women also have a direct connection to the earth and the moon monthly, while indigenous men experience ceremonies to make sure they stay humbled to Mother Earth. Douglas says, “I thought that was fundamental in my education as an individual, and as an architect.” We can learn a lot from Anishinaabe people who have taken the course of balance with nature, making them incredibly resilient.

5. Importance of training beyond the classroom setting

Douglas is often called a genius by his peers due to his practice extending beyond the field of architecture. In an effort to design buildings holistically, he pursued an education in engineering. This knowledge allowed him to create revolutionary solutions in his buildings, learning about the latest softwares and computerizing his studio. His pursuit of creating a world where we all live together in love and caring took him beyond engineering and into spiritual quests. In his own training, he often returned to the elders in his community looking for moral guidance, understanding the importance of being a good person in his work. Douglas explains how he often felt happy and balanced in his community but became disturbed and ill within the cities where he wanted to make a contribution. Through leading by example, he reflects that “it’s very important to embrace the whole world and embrace both cultures and that it wasn’t all about living in one world or another, it was about living in a world where we all coexist together in a loving and caring way.”

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe [00:00:46] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute calling in today from Toronto, the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples, home to many diverse First Nations, Métis and Inuit. This is a very sobering and poignant moment for Canadians with the discoveries this week of the visible tragedies associated with residential schools. And that will continue, I’m sure, to be uncovered, and we will continue to try to come to terms with the legacies of exclusion and how these have been reinforced by the way we build our cities and communities. We had this session planned some time ago, just happened to fall in this week. But we appreciate that there will be people tuning in today who have visceral personal experience of this, family members of themselves, people that they know… Or it may be people’s first introduction to really seeing up close the scope of what occurred and what continues to occur in different kinds of ways across the country. So we gather today with many partners to come to terms with what Truth and Reconciliation need to look like in Canada, and particularly those of us that are involved in community building and city building. This session is co-hosted with Engineers Canada, and I want to thank them, Cassandra and her colleagues, for working to develop this session. We’re doing what we’ve only done a few times, we’re doing a film screening and a conversation. So we really appreciate people being willing to experiment with this format and try different ways to share our learnings and our knowledge and growing our understanding of the implications of how we actually build communities. The producers of the film, especially Andrée Cazabon, who you can see on the screen here, has joined us. She is part of an interesting program, this film is actually part of a program offered through the Reconciliation Education, Online Educational Program, and if you take it, it’s an anti-racist classroom-based basic foundation on reconciliation with indigenous voices. It’s three hours long, ten interactive modules designed to educate all Canadians. You all have access to that, and it comes with a certificate of completion from First Nations University, so that’s an added incentive. I hope that not only will you watch it, but you can follow the links to this program and you’ll be able to share the film with other people to watch it as well. We, the Canadian Urban Institute, are working not only with the engineers but also with the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Royal Architectural Society of Architects, the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, the National Trust, the Urban Land Institute, the Urban Development Institute in Victoria on how we as folks that are working with the people that actually build and design cities, how do we need to change? How do we need to adapt? How do we need to be much more cognizant of these kinds of exclusionary practices and how they need to change? And on the 21st of June, there’s going to be a subsequent session on the CityTalk platform to talk about interdisciplinary approaches, particularly with indigenous practitioners, people who have followed in the footsteps of Douglas Cardinal and who are actually building cities now and who are at the core of their profession. So that’s on the 21st, you’ll see that at CityTalk Canada. Now, you know on these sessions, we have an active chat function and we encourage you to use that chat. We just want to really appeal to people to be respectful and to honour the moment that we’re in and the opportunity that we have to listen to one another and be respectful of each other’s perspectives. If you want to use closed captions, which is a new thing for us, it’s working very well, they should be appearing at the bottom of the screen and you can take them off, just go to toggle on that switch and say off and then you won’t have to read that. We appreciate people are checking in and telling us where they’re watching from and acknowledging the ancestral territories that, if they’re settlers, they occupy. All the videos and the transcripts and everything, remember, everything that goes into the chat stays in the chat, it’ll be at CityTalk Canada as well. And we’ll post a video of the session, which we hope you will share with your colleagues and watch again and all that kind of thing. We’re going to watch this wonderful film, Douglas Cardinal, Architect of the Future, followed by a conversation between Douglas, the main event, and Randy Hermann, who is from the Engineering Access Program at the University of Manitoba. I’m going to pass to you, Randy, to give us some words to get us started. As I said, really appreciative of all of you, Douglas, Randy and Andrée, for coming on today and for all that we’re going to experience together going forward. Over to you, Randy. Thanks, everybody.

Randy Hermann [00:05:40] Thank you, Mary. First, I’d like to welcome everybody here today and let everyone know what an absolute honour it is for me to be sitting here, at least virtually with Douglas Cardinal. He is and has been for many years, somewhat of a hero of mine, so this is just absolutely fantastic for me. Before we get started, I would like to begin by acknowledging the indigenous peoples of all the lands that we are on today. While we meet today on a virtual platform, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of the lands which we all call home. We do this to reaffirm our commitment and responsibility in improving relationships between nations and to improve our own understanding of local indigenous peoples and their culture. From coast to coast to coast, we acknowledge the ancestral and unceded territory of all the Inuit, Métis and First Nations people that call this land home. Let us acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and to consider how we are and can each in our own way try to move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration. I would also like to take a moment of silence to acknowledge the historic and ongoing trauma of the residential school system, including last week’s tragic discovery of 215 children’s remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations grounds. Together, let’s mourn the Indigenous families and communities over this tragic loss.

Randy Hermann [00:07:48] We are here today to screen the film, Douglas Cardinal: Architect of the Future, written by his wife, Idoia Arana-Beobide, and produced by Andrée Cazabon, who we also have here today. As many of you know, elder Douglas Cardinal is a nationally and internationally recognized architect, many of you may also know that he is an Indigenous man of Métis, Annishnabec, Blackfoot, Algonquin and German ancestry. Elder Cardinal is a son, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. He is an elder of the Kainai Nation of Southern Alberta. Douglas is a leader and a visionary. Contributing to Canadian and international movements of sustainability, green buildings and ecologically designed community planning. His architecture is an inspiration for many and springs from his observation of nature and an understanding of balance, natural beauty, and ultimately respect for Mother Earth. In recognition of his work, Douglas Cardinal has received many national and international awards, including 20 Honorary Doctorates, gold medals of architecture in Canada and Russia and an award from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, for Best Sustainable Village. He was also titled An Officer of the Order of Canada, one of the most prestigious awards given to a Canadian. And he was awarded the declaration of being World Master of Contemporary Architecture by the International Association of Architects. In the tradition of many indigenous people on Turtle Island, we have passed tobacco to elder Cardinal. I have a pouch of tobacco here, and I know, Douglas, you have received tobacco by mail. I am offering it to you with gratitude for the knowledge and wisdom you will share with us today. After this event, I will take this tobacco and offer a prayer to the creator in a good way. Today, we’re also joined by the film’s producer, Andrée Cazabon. Andrée is a Gemini nominee and her films have amassed over one million viewers on CBC Newsworld, TVA, Canal D, Radio-Canada and CBC Television, and have been featured at film festivals around the world. Andrée will be online with us during the event today. So if you have any questions for her or Douglas, feel free to enter them into the chat. Thank you for joining us, Andrée. And thank you for joining us, Douglas. With that, I will turn it over and we can begin watching the movie.

Randy Hermann [00:41:12] Well, welcome back, everybody. I just have to say what a beautiful film and what a moving testament to the elder Cardinal’s career. I would like to thank Andrée for her vision and creating this, as well as Idoia, Douglas’s spouse for the work she had in putting all this together. Just incredible. Now, if you will, we’re going to start a bit of a chat with Douglas Cardinal. I have some questions that we’ve already prepped to ask him, but if time permits at the end, we will look at the chat and ask questions out of the chat, but I can’t guarantee that we’ll get to everybody’s question. If you have any questions you wish to ask and they’re not being covered, feel free to post them into the chat and we’ll see about getting to them.

Randy Hermann [00:42:02] Douglas, I heard a story once about your design for St. Mary’s Church, which, if those in the audience don’t know, was one of your first projects. And it was a difficult project for you, the structural engineers told you that your proposed roof design was unbuildable and it would not work. So in accordance with your Indigenous upbringing, you went onto the land to ponder the situation. As you walked, you observed nature and you saw a spider spinning a web. And you thought to yourself, well, look at this spider carefully spanning such long distances with such a thin piece of fibre. This led you to the breakthrough idea you used to design the roof of St. Mary’s. Can you speak more about your philosophy of using nature, its curves and its ideas in your design?

Douglas Cardinal [00:42:58] Nature has an infinite variety of solutions. Structure, mechanical, electrical. How they’re all integrated like architecture, has always been my source of inspiration to see how nature has solved it. I knew that the problem that we had, was that we had to solve it analytically, as engineers we had to solve it analytically. And analytically, we had 81,000 simultaneous equations that had to close. We had that many unknowns, in geometry, X, Y and Z, solving three unknowns is complicated enough, but how about 81,000? They said it would take seven men working full time, one hundred years to solve the equations, and that was impossible. So we looked everywhere for computers to solve what I knew that our computer technology would be able to solve, those equations. We looked everywhere and we found a computer in Chicago, it was actually a building and they had invented transistors at the time, so there were tubes. Remember the old radios with tubes and old televisions with tubes before they invented transistors? This was floors and floors of tubes. So the whole building was a computer. And we used the cards, you know, punch cards, and it was very complex, but they solved it in a matter of days, so we were able to solve it analytically. We had the best engineers. Actually, I remember who did the towers one and also Toronto, and Calgary. They were just amazing engineers and we needed the best, best minds to solve the problem and they were the ones that solved it, with all these engineers and that technology where we used Swedish cables that were covered in plastic so they could slip in the concrete to be able to pull the structure together. It was almost like one of those dolls that have strings in them and then you tighten them and they stand upright. So we post-tensioned the roof. And I had a very powerful professor from Mexico, who did cell design. I felt that architects should learn about structure, mechanical, electrical, that we should know all the engineering in order to be able to solve a building holistically. It was very important for me to take that training, that engineering training because, how am I going to put a building together? And that’s how I understood the engineering disciplines, which was so paramount. I feel that architects should know that those disciplines and so I went to a university that supplied it. And because we have to look at things in a holistic way, you know? How can you design a building and have it stand up without knowledge of engineering and so I thoroughly appreciate your discipline.

Randy Hermann [00:48:08] For those that don’t know, I don’t know if it was quite clear, is that I work on the other side of the coin. I’m an engineer and I come at things with a very engineering mindset. The other thing I would just like to point out, when Douglas Cardinal designed St Mary’s Church, I believe it was in the early 60s and computers were not necessarily a thing that was being used inside of architecture or engineering offices at that time. So it was really quite revolutionary, his idea of using them. You know, another thing I picked up and again, we don’t know each other very well personally, we’ve met a few times. But yet when we’ve talked yesterday briefly and even through this film, it’s quite apparent the influence women have had on your personal life and the importance of women to your culture. In the documentary, you mention the patriarchal dominance in Western architecture and sort of the idea with the patriarchal dominance comes the subjugation of land beneath it. And I’m pretty sure that even nowadays in architecture, like engineering, is still a place dominated by males. And probably predominantly by males, white males, probably. I know this might be a very big question, but if more women, Indigenous People and People of Colour were better represented in the field of architecture, how do you think this field would change?

Douglas Cardinal [00:49:32] I believe we need that diversity and also, I feel that we need the maternal values that women have to offer to us. And I feel that it is so important to come from the heart because my elders taught me that the hard part of force is not as powerful as the soft power of loving and caring. And we need that very powerful loving and caring that our mothers and the mothers of our children have to teach us. So it’s I think it’s so important to honour the really traditional position of women throughout time. Because they have provided a whole gift economy of gifting life to the world and nurturing it, and really there is not enough recognition of their tremendous value in our society. What I really embrace, is the way that our Indigenous people embrace the power of the women and embrace the power of their voices in the governance of our people. The clan mother was so important to our communities, the clan mothers and their position, their point of view. Our whole society was based on the principles of loving and caring and that everything that we do should come from the heart, should come from loving and caring. Because the creation is about respecting and loving and caring all alike. That is so important to embrace and that’s why we men used to go to the sweat lodges to sit on the Earth, and the elders running it would make sure that we humbled ourselves to our mother, the Earth, and understood the power of humility to go to the forces of the planet. Whereas women, you know, they are reminded, they’re reminded every month not only their connection to the Earth, but their connection to the moon. They’re always reminded that and therefore, they don’t need to be reminded as much as we men do, that’s why we should experience these ceremonies that humble us to the Earth-like our very powerful sweat lodges and ceremonies. I felt it was very, very important to be trained by the elders and go through these ceremonies because I felt it was very important to train myself as an architect and learn everything I could in this profession to be able to provide that discipline in my work. But after that training, I went back to the elders and I said, I have this training and I want to be able to serve you, can you train me in my heart to be a better human being. I felt it was very important to go through the training of the elders, doing the sweat lodges, the vision quests and the sun dances and all these things that connect us to each other and connect us to the Earth. I thought that was fundamental in my education as an individual, and as an architect.

Randy Hermann [00:54:36] Yeah, and you came back to that in the documentary several times I talked to you, you come back to that importance in that role of ceremony. And I think it’s it’s absolutely vital, and it makes you who you are and your architecture, what your architecture is. So I’m glad you’re mentioning that, because I think we have an audience that is perhaps maybe starting out in their profession, maybe even starting out on their journey. And they can sort of understand the importance that ceremony has played in your life. I would like to go back for a second and speak again of St. Mary’s Church. Everything I’ve read about St. Mary’s Church sort of indicates that it was not an easy project to design and construct. And I can only imagine the forces aligned against you were formidable. In the documentary, you speak of resilience, especially as it refers to Indigenous people, this resilience that you have must have helped you as a young architect to literally have to stare down bureaucrats, administrators, even seasoned engineers to get your design built. I would like to say that young Indigenous professionals have an easier time now than they did in your case, but I worry that I would be lying if I did say that. What words of wisdom could you share with these young indigenous people when they face such adversity as you faced in your first project?

Douglas Cardinal [00:56:08] Well, I feel that you have the strength and resilience by turning to the power of your own culture and your own elders. I mean, I think that our people have gone through so much and still have that beautiful power coming from the heart, still loving and caring, and forgiveness. One very important thing is to always keep your heart open so that you can communicate and talk from the heart, because that makes us all the same. When you speak from heart to heart, you are speaking to a spiritual nature that we all have, we’re all spiritual beings and it’s very important to speak from heart to heart. To talk to that spirit of the individual that’s in front of you and believe in that and believe that we’re at par with each other and that we’re speaking from heart to heart. And in that way I believe that you can, in sharing that, you create a better understanding with the person that you’re addressing and I felt that was the only way that I could communicate to the people that I’ve been working with and the people I’m serving. Indeed, I was asked by the elders to talk to Pierre Elliott Trudeau about a white paper and how that was not going to serve our people at all, it would just wipe out all of our traditions and culture. And so I was asked to go on a ceremony with the elders and put together a strong statement from the heart to be able to make a submission to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. And so through ceremony and fasting and whatever, and with the elders, we had a vision together to be able to choose the right words to the Prime Minister to address our concerns. And immediately he got it, he really got it, and he supported us and he put Indigenous rights in the Constitution, and that’s all because of the teachings of my elders. It was them. I was just a vehicle for their teachings in my discussions with the Prime Minister. And he just turned his thinking around and stop thinking from his head and started thinking from his heart. And he made such a difference by putting Indigenous rights into the Constitution, so that started from my elders. And it was so difficult at the time because our elders couldn’t practice their traditions, they weren’t allowed. And so my elders all left the reserves and went into the mountains and there practiced all the ceremonies. And so in order to be trained, we had to forward rivers and do whatever we could to get to the camp. It was Robert Smallboy’s camp that gathered all the elders together in Alberta at that time and kept the teachings and followed them every day. And so we’d come there and with and we’d learn about the teachings and be involved in the ceremonies. And it was just amazing that they did that because they kept the teachings alive, you know, in very difficult conditions, in the mountains with tipis and tents. And their families and children were there, and it was sometimes, you know, like minus 40, minus 50. And it was a very difficult thing they went through in order to be able to keep the culture and to train us all of how to be able to speak a very strong voice on behalf of the people and so I have to really acknowledge them for their contribution.

Randy Hermann [01:02:06] Great. I see there’s a question that’s coming up a bit in the chat, and it mirrors very close to a question that I’m going to ask. This is the next one is, you know, cities have changed a great deal over the past 50 years here in Canada and around the world. The experience of indigenous peoples in cities is often associated with high rates of urban poverty, low educational attainment and other forms of systematic barriers. Of course, this is all part of a long and complex history which remains unresolved. Indigenous people and communities are resilient and are forging their own path. But urban inequality is still very much a challenge. What would you say to today’s urban planners and architects as they design Canadian cities? What is the role of the professions in reconciliation and empowering indigenous people in cities?

Douglas Cardinal [01:02:55] I think that we have to design our cities more organically to be in harmony with nature. Right now they look like cancerous growths that are in grid-like patterns that are just gobbling up the environments around them and polluting and destroying all life around them. We are more intelligent creatures and looking at ourselves like a virus, a cancer on the planet, that’s really jeopardizing our host, our mother, the Earth. I mean, cancer is a rather stupid group of cells that kills its host and then dies in the process. Surely we have more intelligence than that. And we have the ability to do that, we are marvellous creatures and we have that gift of creativity. The creator has given that marvellous gift for us, no other being on this planet has a gift of creativity. And so we have to be responsible with that powerful gift we have, you know, we have to be responsible for the fact that we have been given this gift of creativity and what are we going to do with it? Are we going to be irresponsible like we have been doing it with that power that we have? We’re the most powerful creatures on this planet we are godlike beings and we can do amazing things. And so why not put that power in a good way to live in harmony with all life around us. And we need to do that in order to save our planet because we are destroying it. And we, as they say, we shape our environment, but in turn, it shapes us. So we as architects can shape our environment in a beautiful way that works in harmony with nature and create beautiful cities that are loving and caring for every individual in the city. And it means that we have to put our ego aside of feeling that we’re dominion over nature and understanding that we are nature, that we evolved from all life on this planet. And that we have to respect all of our life-givers, which is all of the things that we use around us and all the animals and plants that have to die to give us life. All of our life-givers we have to respect. And that is the knowledge that our people have that lived in harmony before the settlers came and we have to learn how to do that again, learn how to be in harmony. And in our cities aren’t exploitive beings not only exploit our environment, but they exploit the people within them. And that’s the problem we have. And we can turn that around, we have to believe we can turn that around, for heaven’s sake. We are creative people. We can do anything. We can go to the moon and back. We can go to other planets. But we have this planet that we have to preserve and save. And we have to start now.

Randy Hermann [01:07:16] Yeah, I love your statement that our single greatest attribute as a race is this idea of creativity. And to me, I’ve thought about that for years as well. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re creating a piece of art or a building or whatever that is, that is our single greatest strength, is this idea of creativity and using that idea to create better and bigger things. I am seeing on the chats one other question that I think is going to be important to ask, because it comes up, and this wasn’t one we talked about previously. But it’s this idea that, it was brought up in the film as well, this idea of the terrible nature of housing on reserves. And as an architect, what do you think can be done about that problem of reserve housing being, you know, inefficient and not serving the needs of the people, et cetera? So what are some of your thoughts on that?

Douglas Cardinal [01:08:18] Well, for one thing, is that people say, and the governments in Ottawa can’t be so egotistical to believe that they can solve the housing problems within their heads here in Ottawa. They have to go to the community themselves and have the people design the kind of facilities they need, listen to the people. It’s always a one-way communication between government and our people, they always feel they know best. And they don’t because of the evidence that we see, they do not know best. So it’s the people that know best what their needs are, ask the people what they need and work with them so that they can participate in the design of their communities and the design of their housing and. Up north, I was working with the people and I came across a book from the government, they had a house design that just was not suitable for the people, for the area, for anything. It was only suitable for somebody in Ottawa who had an idea in their mind of how people should live. And then there was a book that went along with this house that they were trying to force onto people, how to live in a house. You know, like I said, people didn’t even have the knowledge and intelligence how to live in a house that was designed by settlers when they had lived on that land for thousands of years and have thrived on that land, living in their natural dwellings that they developed. And that’s the height of arrogance, you know, when people believe they know what’s best for other people instead of asking them. You know, and that’s the problem we have. And now what I’m concerned about is everybody’s understanding our problems and now we’re going to get a bunch of expertise of people coming in to solve our problems, you know, is that the new phase of Colonization 201, we already went through 101, a stage of having a bunch of intellect to solve our problems instead of asking us. That’s the next challenge that we’re facing is maybe, one should learn about one’s failures, and it’s a huge failure between the settler culture, who have decided that they know what’s best and I think that we can learn from each other. I think that for me, it was so important to learn about the contribution of European architecture going back, back even to the times of the Egyptian learning about what architects have done and major architects and their contribution to their cultures and everything. I felt that was very vital to know everything I could about architecture and engineering. And I feel these two world views should come together, why shouldn’t the best of both worlds come together to create an amazing culture together? I mean, I think that the settler culture can learn a lot from our culture that has been here thousands of years, you know, and I feel that that’s what should happen. I remember being quite ill and quite upset when the elders were healing me because I got so upset about what I saw in the dominant culture and how they were behaving, that I became very, very ill. And so I went on fast with the elders so that I would be in harmony and I felt a world view was in harmony with me, and every time I came into the settler culture, I got disturbed and ill. So I went back to the elders and said, well, I feel really happy and good and balanced in your community here, but I’m an architect, for heaven’s sake, and I can’t even stand walking in our cities, and how can I be an architect and make a contribution to the world out there when I am living in this beautiful bubble out of the Indigenous world. So the elder put me on a long fast and said, you know, you have to go on this long fast. And so while I was on the fast in this bubble that the elder provided me, all of a sudden the bubble came into a bubble twice as big, it went bloop. So I could see that, you know, that is very important to embrace the whole world and embrace both cultures and that it wasn’t all about living in one world or another, it was about living on a world where we all coexist together in a loving and caring way.

Randy Hermann [01:15:17] Excellent. Yeah, I’m looking I’m very conscious of the times. I hate to cut you off, Douglas, but that was awesome and exceptional. And I just like to add one thought before we go, I don’t think any architect in Canada should graduate from architecture school without having first built a traditional Indigenous structure that comes from the area that they live in with an indigenous person and done all the teachings of that structure. I think that would help all architects everywhere. And I and I say the same thing about engineers. So thank you very much. Thank you for everyone who attended. Thank you very much, Elder Cardinal. This has been an honour for me and I hope one day that I can actually take time out and meet you in person somewhere. It’s been an absolute honour. Thanks, Andrée, for this and Idoia for putting this together. Bye, everybody.

Douglas Cardinal [01:16:08] Bye. Thank you, Randy.

Randy Hermann [01:16:13] Oh, no problem, Douglas.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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00:42:06 Xenia Chan: Hello from Richmond Hill, ON
00:42:06 Dianne Johnstone: Edmonton, Alberta
00:42:17 Canadian Urban Institute: CUI extends a big thank you to our partner for today’s session, Engineers Canada!
00:42:20 Cassandra Polyzou: Unceded and traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Peoples
00:42:30 Rowan Pratt: Love and healing from K’jipuktuk 🧡
00:42:30 Chris Herringer: Hello from Calgary
00:42:44 Lisa Landrum: Treaty 1 Territory, original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and homeland of the Métis Nation (Winnipeg)
00:43:20 Cassandra Polyzou: Check out the course:
00:43:22 Canadian Urban Institute: The film is part of a program of offerings from Reconciliation Education, an online educational tool for corporate, community, and classroom anti-racist training in providing the basic foundational 1:0:1 on reconciliation with authentic Indigenous voices. 3 hours. 10 interactive modules. Designed to educate all Canadians. Successful completion of this program will result in a certificate from First Nations University. For more information:
00:43:39 Jody Patterson: Traditional territories of the Coast Salish Peoples including the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh, in Vancouver BC
00:44:01 Melanie Coates: Hello from Toronto
00:45:05 Amarpreet Guliani: Hello from Regina, SK
00:45:10 Maria Alonso Novo: Hello from Madrid 🙂
00:45:21 Derek Blais: Hello from Toronto! Oneida!!
00:45:44 Brandon Umpherville: Hello from Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq
00:46:10 Canadian Urban Institute: I would like to begin by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples of all the lands that we are on today. While we meet today on a virtual platform, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of the lands, which we each call home. We do this to reaffirm our commitment and responsibility in improving relationships between nations and to improving our own understanding of local Indigenous peoples and their cultures. From coast to coast to coast, we acknowledge the ancestral and unceded territory of all the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations people that call this land home.
00:46:22 Ralph Cipolla: hi
00:46:23 Jeremy Guth: Hello from Prince Edward County. Nice to see you, Mary!
00:46:41 Ralph Cipolla: hello from
00:46:49 Tanya Markovic: Hello from Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee (St Catharines, ON)!
00:48:07 Roberta Sager: Greetings from Hamilton – traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas
00:48:31 Ralph Cipolla: hello from Ralph Cipolla Orillia Ontario
00:59:08 Andree Cazabon : Technical note: the images sometimes lag in the playback because of the Zoom playback – aplogies for this – the images show fine at normal speed usually but at least we get to watch this all together!
01:00:28 Rowan Pratt: I grew up going to that museum to both perform and attend free art programs with my mum. I’m unable to find the words to describe what this building meant for my family
01:00:33 Cassandra Polyzou: Thanks Andree!
01:00:48 Rowan Pratt: What inspired me to go into both art and engineering
01:03:33 Shannon Bassett: Hello from Ottawa-the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabek people
01:15:11 Elizabeth Martelluzzi: Did not realise a building I grew up going to was designed by Douglas Cardinal Inc. York Region Administrative building. Thank you.
01:18:04 Joel Henderson: Alex Janvier saying He’s not finished with Canada yet is some much needed reassurance and inspiration at this time.
01:19:08 Andree Cazabon : @Joel – yes that is my favourite line in the film! That and when he says: ‘The landlord is on the move!’
01:20:58 Diane Dyson: Grandfather Commanda:
01:21:21 Nelson Edwards: Thank you.
01:21:33 Mary W Rowe: Wonderful film!
01:21:48 Cassandra Polyzou: As Mary said, this is part of a full course and you can see more films/check out the course here:
01:22:04 Sonja Kruitwagen: It was beautiful and moving. Thank you.
01:22:11 Rowan Pratt: I’m so honoured and grateful to be here
01:22:12 Roberta Sager: Inspiring presentation of the genius, vision and emotion of Douglas Cardinal. Thank You!
01:22:23 Rowan Pratt: My heart is so full
01:23:29 Jody Patterson: How best can we access this important documentary for classroom use?
01:23:50 Nady Dadmehr: Such a great presentation. Thank you all.
01:23:53 Cassandra Polyzou: @Jody ​​​​​​​
01:25:43 Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
01:26:35 Anne-Marie Parent: My firm was co-landscape architectural firm who designed the Canadian Museum of History site in Gatineau. I will never forget our work meetings with Douglas Cardinal… such a sensitive vision and thoughtfulness of nature towards designing a meaningful concept and timeless masterpiece. Grateful to have been part of it!
01:27:27 Andree Cazabon : @Mary W. Rowe we would be happy to make it available for free outside Canada. The films are part of a course on truth and reconciliation and we also offer them for free viewing on special months. If there is interest in giving a free viewing in June and Sept on Orange Shirt Day, please let me know. You can also connect with us and request the link:
01:28:06 Diane McMordie: I am lucky to get to work in our beautiful City Hall in St. Albert, Alberta which was designed by Mr. Cardinal
01:28:16 Adriana Gomez: Will the film be available in YouTube, or other accessible platform, to be shared in social media. Can it be viewed in and outside Canada?
01:29:08 Joe Castaldo: Can Douglas Cardinal talk about the inspiration for Cardinal House, his sustainable home design for First Nations communities? Has it been built in any First Nations? Thanks to all for organizing!
01:30:24 Rowan Pratt: Gender diversity beyond the binary/women ! ❤️
01:30:56 Susan Healey: On this topic I have to mention the book The Death of Nature (1980) – it had a huge impact on me and I highly recommend it.
01:35:41 Nady Dadmehr: If it is possible to put this presentation on YouTube, that would be perfect. Every student of Architecture should watch this presentation.
01:37:52 Andree Cazabon : Chi-meegwetch and thank you for all comments honouring Douglas Cardinal. This was the vision fo the film: to highlight him and shine a bright light on him. Because he was an advocate and found colonialism – helping take down the residential schools in the west – empowering the Nations he worked with – he was seen as an outcast and was punished in many ways for his advocacy and for being the first Architect in the country. You are all honouring him by your comments and celebration of him. He is an amazing leader!
01:37:53 Jeremy Guth: A question for Mr Cardinal: is there a need for Indigenous led landscape design and urban and regional planning in Canada. Can this help to reconcile all people in Canada to Indigenous values and nature on the land?
01:39:34 Laurel Davies Snyder: To follow up on Jeremy’s question above, how do we start embedding this in our schools, our practice, etc.? Beautiful session.
01:42:09 Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
01:43:21 Ifeanyi Ossai: Can we get a certificate of attendance for this Event?
01:44:07 marveh farhoodi: I will write my question again, as I posted it previously on” panelist” setting: Could Douglas touch on the part of the film, showing the poor conditions of reserves. Is there any project in Canada that focuses on “community” projects and not institutional buildings, to revitalize the living context of indigenous communities and celebrate the indigenous cultures?
01:44:39 Canadian Urban Institute: @Ifeanyi we will not be providing a certificate of attendance for this event but we encourage you to look at the course available through Reconciliation Education, which does come with a certificate from the First Nations University of Canada.
01:45:16 Sandra Miller: As a life-long fan of architecture, it was thrilling to learn that Elder Cardinal would be presenting the Convocation Address when I graduated from Western University in 2001. You can access his speech online:—dou.html
01:45:45 Cassandra Polyzou: Great article on Indigenous architecture:
01:49:54 Diane Dyson: The recording, chat, and notes of this discussion between Elder Cardinal and Randy Hermann will be posted at in the days coming. (The video is available elsewhere as noted above.)
01:50:18 Cassandra Polyzou: Another resource: Voices of the Land: Indigenous Design and Planning from the Prairies.
01:51:00 Rowan Pratt: White saviourism boils my blood
01:51:26 marveh farhoodi: Exactly!
01:54:05 Sandra Miller: We can all learn from each other… We have so much to learn from Indigenous peoples.
01:55:55 Sandra Miller: Thank you!
01:55:56 Shannon Bassett: Thank you Douglas
01:55:58 Catherine Mavriplis: Thank you so much – very helpful
01:56:00 Susan Healey: Thank you very much, this has been inspiring.
01:56:02 Tim Davis: Thank you SO MUCH, everyone!!
01:56:07 Diane Dyson: <3