First Peoples House

Type of Building
Community & Recreation, Education, Tourism & Specialty
Location
Victoria
Size
1,196 sq. m.
Architect
Formline Architecture
Completion
2009
Structural Engineer
Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
Project Owner
University of Victoria
Materials
Glue-laminated timber (glulam), Paneling, Siding

Project Overview

The First Peoples House was designed as a home away from home for Indigenous students at the University of Victoria, the largest university on Vancouver Island. It is a social, cultural, and academic centre and serves as a safe and welcoming place for connection and community building. The facility houses the Office of Indigenous Affairs, student counselling services, classroom space, a student lounge and Elders’ lounge, faculty offices, and a ceremonial hall and kitchen. 

Wood Use

Following the Coast Salish style, the ceremonial hall, with its heavy timber structure, is built according to a traditional longhouse design, while employing modern glue-laminated timber Douglas-fir beams and columns, with inconspicuous tight-fit stainless steelpin connections. 

The exterior is clad with cedar while the lower portion of the structure is flanked by load-bearing insulated rammed-earth walls. This design detail is a reference to the traditional interior Salish pit house structures, and it offers a sustainable source of thermal control and a natural tactile aesthetic. Inside, woven-cedar wall panels and cladding envelop the visitor in a palpable, aromatic sense of warmth. The facility showcases two sets of carved cedar house posts, carved ceremonial doors, and inset panels in the hall, along with other First Nations artwork. The final design reflects input gathered during consultation with First Nations leaders as well as Indigenous faculty, staff, and students. At night, with its abundant use of western red cedar, clerestory windows, and glazing, the building glows orange like a jewel box amid its wooded surroundings.