Skwelwil’Em Eco-Cultural Centre
Completed as part of my Masters in Landscape Architecture (MLA) thesis in 2013, Skwelwil’Em Eco-Cultural Centre explores the intersection of provincial land conservation policy and the potential for contemporary indigenous land use practices. The conceptual design focuses on the development of a research, education, and visitor center (Lhasem Village) as the nexus for restoration of an old log sort site within the Squamish river estuary. The project explores how potential developments for first nations on conservation lands can balance economic opportunities and cultural practices to achieve long term management goals in protected areas.
The first nations people of Canada have a culturally rich heritage and connection to the natural environment that is not fully realized or respected by current government policies surrounding land use and planning. The world views of first nations illustrate a deep respect for the natural world that is reflected in their cultural beliefs, stories, and ceremonies. They have been the keystone species for millennia on this continent and it is through their stewardship the rich biodiversity of this country flourished prior to colonization.
Skwelwil’Em Eco-Cultural Center provides the opportunity for the revitalization of the cultural practices of the Squamish Nation within a protected area. State of the art facilities including greenhouses, classrooms, labs, administration, gathering space, a restaurant, and ceremonial facilities provide the tools to support not only the restoration of the Squamish river estuary but also economic development and educational opportunities. The “landscape exhibits” that surround the facilities reflect the restoration of native ecosystems based on site hydrologic conditions and existing plant community dispersal within the Squamish Estuary. These natural ecosystems are designed based on intensive research into traditional plant use and cultivation known to have historically occurred within the estuary.