Reimagine Architect references fur trade–era cabins for The Lodge at Metís Crossing

Architect: Reimagine Architects
Location: Smoky Lake, Alberta, Canada
Completion Date: 2022

The Lodge is the latest addition to Metís Crossing, a hub for Indigenous tourism located outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Clad in Accoya wood and supported by exposed glulam columns and beams, the exterior detailing of the 40 key hotel recalls extant fur trading outposts and cabins located on the site.

entrance to The Lodge Metís
The Lodge allows tourists to visit the historic Metís settlement. (Cooper & OHara)

Situated along the North Saskatchewan River, Metís Crossing is sited on the grounds of a historic Metís settlement. Originally incorporated to facilitate the fur trade, the settlement was organized as a river lot system—plots were subdivided in rectangular sections which extend from the river front.

Eventually the land was sold to a family of German farmers. The area was then reacquired by the Metís Nation of Alberta in the early 2000s. Shortly after, development began for Metís Crossing and Reimagine Architects were brought on to create a master plan.

North Saskatchewan River
Metís Crossing is sited along the North Saskatchewan River. (Cooper & OHara)

There has been a rise in Indigenous culture–oriented tourism in conjunction with Canadas national reconciliation initiatives, that began in earnest with the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation commission in 2015. Metís Crossing was conceived as one such example, offering cultural and culinary programming which showcase local customs.

Tiffany Shaw, Indigenous practice leader at Reimagine Architects and a member of Albertas Metís Nation, told AN, “In Canada we have a lot of forts where you can learn about trading history. But this is from a colonizer perspective. At Metís Crossing you can go and learn about the historic village—learn how people lived from an authentic point of view and in less of a narrative-driven way. You also learn about how we still live today and thrive—we are not dead.”

walkway connecting The Lodge and The Gathering Center
The Lodge is connected to The Gathering Center by a wooden walkway. (Copper & OHara)

In addition to The Lodge, Reimagine Architects was responsible for the design of The Gathering Center, a community facility directly adjacent to the hotel. The building, completed in 2019, features a similar use of Accoya screens and timber detailing.

balconies on each hotel unit
Each unit in The Lodge connects to exterior balconies and walkways. (Cooper & OHara)

Accoya wood was chosen as the exterior cladding, as opposed to raw wood, to manage cost and reduce maintenance. Accoya is a proprietary wood product made from acetylated pine. It is stronger and more water resistant than untreated wood. Like other types of timber, the Accoya is expected to gray over time.

Vertical planks of the material separate each of The Lodges component units and double as sun screens. Solar heat gain on the interior was further reduced through the use of triple-glazed fiber glass windows.

interior columns and large stone fireplace
Light-colored glulam columns and beams were left exposed on the interior of The Lodge. (Cooper & OHara)

In contrast to the darker wood tones of the exterior, the buildings interior prominently features white-colored wood. According to Shaw, this shade of lumber is more appropriate to Alberta, which is dominated by Aspen and Poplar trees.

“If I was in [British Columbia] I would use Redwood… Whereas here we were trying to use whitewood.”

The buildings glulam ceilings and columns were left exposed and manufactured using a mixture of spruce, pine, and fir species to achieve the paler hue.

A dove-tail joint beneath the fireplace references the sites fur trade–era cabins. (Cooper & OHara)
close-up of dovetail joints
Dovetail joints are a common feature of the fur trade–era structures, used to waterproof the cabins. (Courtesy Reimagine Architects)

Reimagine Architects design of The Lodge as well as the other structures at Metís Crossing, successfully integrates traditional Metís building practices with modern construction methods and contemporary materials. The project was also the result of a highly collaborative relationship between client and architect—one that goes back more than 20 years.

Shaw described how the Metís Crossing project and Reimagine Architects practice in general differs from the publics notion of an architects role in construction. “Our Projects are built with community engagement from the beginning so that [client and architect]  ideas are meshed together rather than the architect leading the process.”

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