Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aboriginal Gathering Place - construction update

By Leah Poulton

If you’ve spent any time at the New Westminster Campus over the last few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that there’s something happening on the 4th floor south – something big. After all, jack-hammering, demolition and cranes lifting giant steel beams aren’t usually part of the Douglas College experience.

Well, these are more than just your average renovations. In fact, the College is the process of constructing an entirely new structure on the 4th floor – the Aboriginal Gathering Place.

Located beside Student Services on the 4th floor south, the Gathering Place will function as a multi-purpose facility, including study spaces, student lounge seating and a central gathering area with seating for 50-60 people. The chairs will be movable, to allow for both circular seating for healing and a longhouse-style open format for ceremonies. The space will be decorated with a variety of wall displays and art pieces.

Douglas Aboriginal Student Services Coordinator Dave Seaweed emphasizes that when finished, the Gathering Place will be much more than just a dressed-up study space for students.

“It will have more of a symbolic, peaceful atmosphere, as opposed to a place to study full of carrels and computers,” he says.

Seaweed says the Gathering Place, planned in partnership with the New Westminster Qayqayt First Nation, will also be used for ceremonies like smudging (a healing ceremony that involves the burning of herbs), and other cultural celebrations.

The space will also act as a venue to showcase Aboriginal culture and heritage; it will feature totem poles in each corner, as well as a variety of other Aboriginal artwork.

“We’re going to open up artist opportunities to all Nations,” says Seaweed.

“It’s going to be very collaborative.”

The College hasn’t yet fully determined if the facility will be open to just the College community or to the general public. But Seaweed hopes they’ll be able to have it open to everyone, and for longer than just normal office hours.

“We’re trying to make sure it’s welcoming to everyone involved and everyone who wants to come in,” he says.

The majority of funding for the project comes from the Aboriginal Special Project Funding initiative of the provincial government, with the remainder being supplied by the College.

Construction on the Aboriginal Gathering Place is scheduled to be completed by mid-September, with the grand opening taking place soon after.

Check out the slideshow below to see how it will look as part of the campus:

mock-ups courtesy of CJP Architects

Stay tuned to doug for more updates on its progress!

Aboriginal Student Services
CJP Architects