Canadian Consulting Engineer

First Nations museum opens east of Calgary

The largest museum in Canada to be owned and operated by First Nations opened in Alberta on July 18. The Blackfoot ...

July 25, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The largest museum in Canada to be owned and operated by First Nations opened in Alberta on July 18. The Blackfoot Crossing Interpretive Centre located 100 kilometres east of Calgary celebrates the culture and history of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It is located in park land set aside by the Siksika Nation. The park includes the burial site of Chief Crowfoot, who was one of those who signed historic Treaty No. 7, handing over land to the Canadian government for railway development in 1877. The 60,000-sq. ft. new centre is set into the edge of an escarpment, facing west. Ronald Goodfellow of Goodfellow Architecture, who are the architects, says the structural engineering challenges of the concrete and steel building were considerable, given the steep site and unstable soils. The fan-shaped plan symbolically represents a teepee cover laid on the ground. At the centre is a raised Sundance Lodge and around it are seven teepee shaped skylights. Tapered steel poles support the main building and roof, starting at the lower exhibit level and eventually protruding through the roof to form the framework for the “teepee” skylights. The skylights provide daylight all the way down to the lower levels.The structural engineers are A.D. Williams (successor to Campbell Woodall Associates) and mechanical engineers are Stantec (successor to Keen). The $25-million building was first conceived in 1985, but was stalled in the 1990s due to funding problems, then “rebooted” in 2001, says Goodfellow. It contains a 100-seat theatre, galleries, a restaurant and gift shop. The curators are working to have artifacts and ceremonial objects returned there from other museums around the world.The Blackfoot Confederacy includes the Siksika, Piikani, Kainaiwa, Tsuu T’ina and the Stoney peoples. The centre is hoping to attract 77,000 visitors. It is accessed from the Trans Canada by Highway 842.


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