Levitt Goodman Architects’ Native Child and Family Selected as an Honouree by Interior Design Magazine for Best of Year

Canadian architecture firm Levitt Goodman Architects has just received notification from Interior Design Magazine in New York that their Longhouse for the Native Child and Family Services Building in Toronto has been shortlisted for the prestigious “Interior Design Best of the Year Award.”

The firm is one of four firms to be honoured in the “Institutional” category. The firm will receive a “Merit Award” or the top “Best of Award” at a celebration in New York City on December 2, 2010. Situated on a mezzanine overlooking the main entrance of the Native Child and Family Services Building, Levitt Goodman’s “Longhouse” was conceived as a multipurpose room for the Toronto aboriginal centre. It is used both formally and informally for public assemblies and spiritual ceremonies, drumming and circle sessions, for counselling, meetings and children’s playtime.

Inspired by the traditional birch sapling structures of southern Ontario, it is a contemporary iteration of a longhouse, providing urban aboriginals with an authentic Native experience within a non-Native environment.

The Longhouse’s outer husk is formed from horizontal strips of eastern white cedar. Its interior is a honey-coloured barrel vault of cedar with radial curved ends held by gracefully torqued and spliced arches whose continuous crisscrossing wraps the interior like a net. The lamellar structure of mutually dependent, arched frame segments was typically used in the 1950s and ’60s for airplane hangars and sports stadiums. The project is a product of both digital design and handcrafted construction. The architects created a 3D computer model of the structure that the fabricators used to cut each piece, and it was prefabricated in the shop. To decrease the construction time on site, the components were numbered, disassembled and reconstructed on site with final adjustments made by hand.

Like the experience of a great work of art, the longhouse’s interior defies people’s accelerated habits. Its sensuousness slows down one’s breath and inspires contemplation and healing, thereby facilitating the activities that take place within its walls. According to the building’s Executive Director, Kenn Richard, “With the increasing migration of Native peoples from reserves to large urban centres, it will be important to have beacons and guideposts such as this to not only show the way but also to affirm and support the cultural and spiritual integrity of these developing communities. In some ways the longhouse is a foundation on which a new urbanized indigenous reality will emerge.”