Phase 2 of Siem Lelum, Respectful House, was completed in the fall of 2017. Designed for the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC), Siem Lelum is a supportive housing unit for young urban aboriginal families.  The site features two residential buildings, a community house, and inner courtyard.  The site is located on Gorge Rd E in the traditional territory of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations. As a LEED® for homes certified project, management of onsite stormwater and the reduction of potable water use for irrigation were key considerations. The central feature of the landscapes design was the incorporation of a medicine wheel which contains the children’s play area in the inner courtyard.

 The circle represents the interconnectedness of ones being including their connection to each other and the natural world. The paving line divisions are aligned with the four cardinal directions and define the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual realities. The inner circle of the play area is off-centre causing the medicine wheel to be imbalanced. It is meant as a reflection on the intergenerational trauma experienced by residential school survivors and their families. By placing the children in the centre it is a reminder of the importance to balance these worlds and avoid passing on our wounds. Through the traditional teachings of the medicine wheel we can achieve personal reconciliation and bring balance to the circle for our future generations.

The landscape design also features the use of traditional plants important to the Lekwungen people. These include but are not limited to the use of food plants such as Vaccinum ovatum, Evergreen huckleberry around the children’s play area, sage plantings along the Gorge Rd frontage to be used in ceremony, and the incorporation of Scirpus acutes, Tule in the rain gardens, used in traditional Tule basket weaving. Site paving also incorporated a traditional Coast Salish pattern often used in sweaters and in basket weaving.

Murdoch de Greeff Inc (MDI Design) was responsible for the landscape design at Siem Lelum.  As part of the MDI Design team Terence Radford was responsible for conceptual design, contract documents, construction documents and field services.  MDI collaborated with Merrick Architecture (Prime consultant), Westbrook, AME Group, AES Engineering, and Gye and Associates during the design and construction of the project.

For additional information on this project please visit the Victoria Native Friendship Centre website.