ELASTICOFarm to design Manitoulin Island’s Weengushk Film Institute

The Weengushk Film Institute is working toward building its new centre for learning.

Concept design of new Weengushk Film Institute by architects ELASTICOFarm led by Stefano Pujatti.
© Lisa Pujatti and Leonardo Dubois.

Weengushk Film Institute is developing a new centre-for-learning on Manitoulin Island, designed by architects ELASTICOFarm, an Italian firm led by Stefano Pujatti. The building shape will be reminiscent of a turtle floating above the earth, an important motif in Indigenous cultures.

“I wanted the new Weengushk Film Institute’s training center to be shaped like a turtle, as I have been taught that the turtle supports the world,” says Dr. Cheechoo, James Bay Cree artist, actor, filmmaker, and founder of Weengushk Film Institute. “It’s an icon of life itself.”

Established in 2002 by Dr. Cheechoo, Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) is one of Canada’s most meaningful centers of learning. The first of its kind, this non-profit centre educates and inspires Indigenous and diverse youth with its programming integrating creative and life skills. 

Embracing this shared knowledge through biophilic design, the architects have incorporated the project’s natural surroundings and elements by using timber and stone distinctive to Manitoulin—as well as by referencing ice, which has been used culturally by Indigenous peoples as an efficient insulator.

The mass of the building will float above the landscape on columns designed for the building to carry itself, while allowing the structure the ability to minimize its impact on its surrounding environment and providing an outdoor space underneath for programming and public events.

Inside, learners will benefit through expanded program offerings that the Turtle Island Project’s state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and performance spaces will house. The innovative design has also been selected as part of the Italian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, currently on display until November.