Deer Clan Longhouse

A learning centre that interprets historic Indigenous architecture as a contemporary learning space

Crawford Lake is a rare site in Ontario at which the archeological remains of a pre-contact longhouse village have been preserved. The Indigenous Design Studio has been working since 2014 as architects on strategic reconstructions to create a centre of education. The design and program resulted from a collaborative effort between Six Nations, Indigenous Peoples in Halton, local educators, Conservation Halton, and the Indigenous Design Studio, with the assistance of Indigenous facilitator JP Gladu.

This work involved three structures. Two structures – the Wolf Clan and Turtle Clan Longhouses – were built as replicas on their original sites using traditional bentwood and bark cladding fabrication systems. The third structure, the Deer Clan Longhouse, is a contemporary, year-round, conditioned space that accommodates over 80,000 annual visitations by students. It was approached as an opportunity for innovation, with the exterior of the building faithful to the traditional form and materials of a 15th Century longhouse and the interior providing a sequence of contemporary multi-purpose learning spaces adaptable to a wide range of programs and events.

A feature at the entrance of the Deer Clan Longhouse is the Inclusive Circle, a wood-wrapped circular space with a domed ceiling designed to reference the Sky Woman narrative. This space embeds archeological artifacts from the site in its curving walls. An overhead, 360-degree audio-video diorama immerses visitors in curated stories that connect Indigenous cultures and histories to contemporary accomplishments and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples.

The Living Lab is a large double height wood hall with a fireplace, and is used as an experiential learning lab for the many student groups that move through the space every day. The Lab is also used as an art gallery through the use of retractable, motorized display panels suspended from the ceiling. When not in use for education, the lab converts to a meeting place for the community which accommodates presentations, lectures, and committee and board meetings. The space is supported with a washroom and catering kitchen, enabling the space to be rented to outside groups.


Crawford Lake, ON


Conservation Halton


225m² / 2422ft²




Urban Design
Landscape Architecture
Stakeholder Engagment


2015 Ontario Association of Architects, Honourable Mention in Design Excellence
2014 Ontario Wood Works, Jury’s Choice Award
a close up of a wooden fence with metal bars.
a room filled with lots of different types of art.
a circular structure made of bamboo sticks in a garden.