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John van Nostrand presenting at 2017 RAIC / OAA Festival

John van Nostrand will be giving a lecture at this year’s RAIC / OAA Festival of Architecture in Ottawa. His lecture is entitled ‘From Reconciliation to Reconstruction – Housing Canada’s First Nations’ is at 2pm on Thursday May 25. Canada is developing a National Housing Policy that addresses the long-standing needs of indigenous communities with respect to housing and social infrastructure. The substandard and deplorable housing conditions in First Nations are persistent for the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population. Architects have had limited involvement in addressing these problems over the last 150 years, and this lecture and open forum will highlight how we got to where we are; identify the potential roles for architects; and, present existing and emerging models for an architecture that embraces land, infrastructure, and housing as a critical form of social and economic development.

Participants will gain a historical understanding of the influence of colonization in creating current conditions – as well as an overview of where things stand today. They will be encouraged to conduct more research themselves in different parts of Ontario, as these conditions vary across significantly across the Province. They will also develop a better understanding of the scope of the needs and obstacles facing First Nations communities. There are a number of important precedents of practical architectural innovation in indigenous housing that Canadian students should get to know – in Ontario, Quebec, across Canada and in indigenous communities in other parts of the world. The most successful of these are developed on an integrated, anthropologically-guided basis (the hunter-gatherer vs. the farmer) that addresses the relationship of land (and attachment to land), with social and engineering services and housing. Students will gain a better knowledge of housing projects that have started to address some of the key constraints and opportunities facing First Nations communities.

The lecture and seminar will move beyond what exists to show what new approaches look like. This will encourage indigenous and non-indigenous students to engage more directly in the creation of new approaches by showing explicit relationships between architecture, land and infrastructure in more detail. The lecture and seminar will illustrate opportunities that exist in architecture to address issues such as overcrowding, alternative energies, insulation, ventilation (and mould), fire protection, construction and maintenance. Additionally, participants will learn how social issues may be addressed through architecture – including the cross-generational exchange within a family, abuse, mental and physical health, suicide and community gatherings.

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