“We’re very invisible in this city. One aspect for us was to become visible people with value, and to be proud to show who we are.”

Alison Fisher, Executive Director of Wabano Centre

Architecture with Meaning

Both in its interior and its exterior, the centre incorporates numerous First Nations symbols – particularly those tied to female symbolism like the moon, circles and water to reflect the centre’s focus on aboriginal women’s health.  The dome is supported by 13 columns corresponding with the 13 lunar cycles in a solar year. The ceiling is painted in four blocks of red, yellow, white and black to indicate the four directions. Coloured tiles on the floor resemble a traditional star blanket pattern – the eight-pointed morning star heralding a new beginning or “Wabano” in Ojibwe.

Making A Community Visible

While holding a special position as the first inhabitants and one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, Indigenous Peoples and their cultures remain largely invisible in cities dominated by borrowed European styles. Wabano, designed by Canada’s most renowned First Nations architect and commissioned by a First Nations institution, looks to establish a clearly Indigenous building in the city, giving visibility to a community through its architecture.

This post forms part of our World Architecture Day Queen’s Park Picks 2017 series in which we asked Ontario’s Members of Provincial Parliament to nominate a prominent building, past or present, in their riding for a chance to learn more about it. Check out the rest of the series to learn more about Ontario’s great architecture.


// Maria Cook, New $14.2 milion Wabano Centre set to be complete in March, Ottawa Citizen, 20 February 2013
// Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Fact Sheet – Urban Aboriginal population in Canada, Accessed Sept. 2017

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