In honour of Indigenous History Month, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) is celebrating the contributions and stories of Indigenous designers within the Canadian interior design community.
Learn more about the work and experiences of these talented IDC members.
WANDA DALLA COSTA
Wanda Dalla Costa is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation and has been working with Indigenous communities across North America for over two decades. As the first First Nations woman to become a registered architect in Canada, Wanda is a leading specialist in Indigenous design. She has dedicated her career to developing culturally responsive design and built environments that serve as a teaching tool for traditional knowledge.
Having ventured through 40 countries around the world over a seven-year period, Wanda observed populations that were able to reconcile contemporary architecture and cultural lifeways. Upon her return, she recognized the disparity here in North America, between Indigenous culture and the built environment. Her mission in architecture is to build a conversation around those often invisible, the life affirming aspects of culture, that serve to instill meaning in the built environment. Her interest also centers around the intelligence of vernacular architecture, driven by rebuilding the reconnection between Indigenous people and architecture.
Dalla Costa is also a scholar and professor at the Arizona State University where she teaches Indigenous architecture, centering the plurality and diversity she witnessed in her travels. Her aim is to continue critical thinking in the field, while she empowers the next generation towards re-imagining Indigenous futurities for the 21st Century. Her pedagogy includes bringing community members to co-teach with her. As mentorship is critical to this work, Dalla Costa founded and is the Director of the Indigenous Design Collaborative, a community-driven design, and construction program, bringing together tribal community members, industry, and a multi-disciplinary team of ASU students and faculty to co-design and co-develop solutions for tribal communities.
Dalla Costa is the Founder and Principal of Tawaw Architecture Collective (TAW). TAW offers a unique approach to design, aimed at bringing Indigenous worldviews alongside contemporary design rigor. Her approach includes deep engagement of community partners ensuring a deep, equitable, and inclusive process. Her notable achievements include being honored as a 2019 YBCA 100 honoree, which awards change makers and cultural activists working at the intersection of art, social change, and civic life. Wanda is also a member of the RAIC Indigenous Task Force to promote Indigenous design in Canada.
Valerie Gow is the co-founder of Gow Hastings Architects which she leads with Philip Hastings. Since 2002 the practice has been recognized as an industry leader in the creation and transformation of public spaces.
Valued for her comprehensive expertise in both architecture and interior design, Valerie partners with clients and users to find distinctive, intelligent, and sustainable design solutions. Her leadership role as Principal in Charge for several projects completed alongside Two Row Architect (Indigenous Design Advisor), has provided her with a nuanced understanding of cultural elements to be incorporated into the design of Indigenous spaces. Her creativity, positivity, and persistence result in cultural, spatial, and material expressions that exceed expectations.
Gow Hastings’ current Indigenous Design work includes the Spirit Garden Indian Residential School Survivors Restoration of Identity Project at Nathan Phillips Square, scheduled to begin construction in Fall 2021. The project responds in part to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Call to Action 82, for governments to commission and install a Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour residential school survivors, and all the children lost to their families and communities.
Valerie has recently completed work on Seneca College Odeyto Indigenous Centre, University of Toronto OISE Lobby and Entrance, and University of Toronto OISE Tkaranto CIRCLE Lab. Beyond these projects, Gow Hastings’ Indigenous Design portfolio includes Ryerson University Library Entrance, Ryerson University Aboriginal Student Services Offices, Centennial College A Block Expansion, and Niagara College Indigenous Student Services Centre.
Linda Makins is a practicing registered interior designer in the province of Ontario. She is Principal of MAKINSACHANGE Creative Environments Inc., a boutique design firm that specializes in refurbishments to condominium buildings.
Linda is of Indigenous heritage. She is the great-granddaughter of Sagamaw Geodol (Chief) Noel Jedore of the Mi’kmaq of Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River, Newfoundland. In 1923 Sagamaw Geodol was at the center of great controversy in his refusal to abandon traditional prayer for the ways of the church. This conflict resulted in his exile. He with his family settled in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia where the family resides to this day.
In 1985 the community of Conne River Newfoundland renewed its traditional culture which was put on hold after the exile of Saqamaw Geodol. It is once again known as the Miawpukek First Nation and his commitment to First Nations culture is honoured.
As Linda begins to wind down her practice of 40 years she reflects on her career and how her Indigenous heritage has influenced her work:
“My approach to design was always an intuitive response to space and its elements. To me, it was not about aesthetic; it was about correcting imbalances and creating harmony within space. My relationship with clients, suppliers, and contractors has always centered on mutual respect, communication, and kindness. As I move towards retirement I am very pleased with my body of work and the wonderful bonds I have formed in the industry. I truly believe my Indigenous heritage has played a huge role in my design career.”
Linda Makins is a past president of IDC and a member of the IDC Foundation board. In 2019 she was inducted as a Fellow of IDC for her contribution to the interior design industry.
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