Spirit Garden

A waterfront park designed in collaboration with Indigenous communities.

The Spirit Garden is a multi-use landscape designed as part of the broader Thunder Bay waterfront redevelopment. Through its inspiration by Indigenous use of the land, the employment of traditional building techniques, and the incorporation of Indigenous art, the design raises the profile of Indigenous knowledge while restoring the waterfront with native vegetation. Consultation with Indigenous stakeholders took place in a series of workshops that included First Nations and Métis community members. Workshops were led by Ryan Gorrie, who also led the design effort.

The Celebration Circle within the Spirit Garden provides infrastructure for teaching, performance, celebration, and contemplation. The bentwood structure provides a glimpse into natural use of materials through simple bending and lashing, referencing traditional and current Indigenous building technology. At the base of the gathering circle are metal panels depicting art from local Indigenous artist Randy Thomas; the art tells stories related to Anishinaabe culture.

The Honouring Circle, a public fireplace, is located near the water in view of the Sleeping Giant. The Sleeping Giant landform, known by the Anishinaabe as the cultural figure Nanaboosho, is credited with bringing fire to the people. The Honouring Circle stands as place for ceremony, intimate gathering, and reflection. Interpretive panels provide interpretation as well as context.

Traditional medicines were incorporated alongside explanatory panels to bring awareness to local Indigenous knowledge and a local greenhouse staffed by Indigenous Peoples provided the plants.

Location

Thunder Bay, ON

Client

City of Thunder Bay

Date

2012

Scope

Architecture
Landscape Architecture
Public Art
Community Engagement
Indigenous Design

Awards

2012 Woodworks Northern Ontario Excellence Award
2012 Ontario Association of Landscape Architects Award for Service to the Environment
2012 Ontario Association of Landscape Architects Award of Merit
2012 Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Planning Excellence