To preserve its natural setting, located just outside Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, the Tseshaht Tribal Multiplex and Health Centre’s design elevates its heavy-timber structure and follows the contours and outlines of the rocky bluff below. Cantilevering the wood structure over the Somass River’s edge doesn’t just make it appear to float, it allows for the concealment of the large services and equipment underneath the floor. All of the small service distribution networks are incorporated within the roof assembly between the exposed ceilings and the surface of the roof. The facility fulfills community, health, cultural, commercial, and social functions.
The extensive use of wood was chosen for its cultural significance to the Tseshaht First Nation. As the sun travels its daily path, light floods into the carefully sited facility, bathing the many wood surfaces to create a warm and luminous ambiance. The structure is a combination of open-framed post and beam in-filled with glazing and a limited number of strategically placed sheer walls. It uses a multitude of engineered wood products and lumber products milled by the Tseshaht from wood harvested from their traditional lands. The design deliberately exposes every element of the wood structure as an architectural feature, requiring precision pre-manufacturing of each element, which was done on-site prior to assembly. Much of the on-site construction was carried out by Tseshaht craftsmen.