August 2012

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RENDERINGS COURTESY DAVID NAIRNE & ASSOCIATES LTD. Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and Whitehorse Public Library by Godfrey Budd he location of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and Whitehorse Library, on the banks of the Yukon River in the territorial capital's downtown, is described by Gary Bailie, the director of community services for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN), as "the nicest real estate in Whitehorse." But, given the aims, design and amenities of the KDFN's new cultural centre and the historical backdrop that set the stage for its development, the centre's role and signi icance go far beyond what one might associate with a facility blessed with a choice location. Beginning with the Klondike gold rush nearly 120 years ago, the Kwanlin Dün endured a total of seven relocations over the century or so that followed. The name Kwanlin Dün means 'people of the river' in the southern Tutchone language, Bailie points out, as he describes the role of the single-storey cultural centre and the signi icance of its location by the river. (The library wing is the only part of the complex that has two storeys.) Part of the centre's role is to enable KDFN members to reconnect with the outdoors, nature and their historic relationship with the Yukon River. "It's about rebuilding our identity, our values and cultural beliefs. The centre will help us re-learn our culture and tell the Kwanlin Dün story from ancestral times to the present," says Bailie. The centre includes a main gathering place designed in the long-house style, a kitchen, meeting rooms, a large multipurpose room, artists' studio and work spaces, KDFN archive, a quiet spiritual space and an exhibition gallery that runs most of the building's length. One T 100/ AUGUST 2012 p.100-101Kwanlin.indd 100 purpose of the centre is to support a range of cultural and educational activities, including languages and crafts. The various meeting rooms are available for conferences and other events. "The centre needs to generate revenue and balance that with the cultural activities of the First Nation," says Baile. Because of its role in re-establishing the KDFN's presence and reconnection with the river, the formal front entrance of the centre faces the river, says Dave McIntyre, a partner at David Nairne & Associates Ltd. The entrance that is reached by typical motor traf ic is not without its symbolic freight either, however. "The wood cedar panels on either side of the main entrance to the street indicate each of the two clans or moieties of the KDFN," says McIntyre. One of the panels is solid cedar with a circular window eight feet in diameter, the other is cedar screen. The cedar screen is designed to allow light into the building and improve transparency and connection between indoors and outdoors. "You can see from the street into the interior and vice versa, while keeping the look and feel of the traditional long house facade," says McIntyre. Connection with the river was a key part of the design concept, so whether indoors or outdoors, "you can see the river," he says. But the site's lood plain status meant that the river, or a portion of it, could get too close for comfort and perhaps inundate the centre at some point in the future. Accordingly, it was decided, at the planning stage, to raise much of the site by about a metre with the addition of more earth. As a result, the building is now above the 100-year lood level, McIntyre says. The LEED Gold-designed centre boasts low water usage and could accommodate a proposed horizontal geothermal ield, should future inances allow it. The landscape supports the central concept of reconnection with the adjacent river. "The design emphasizes both physical and visual access to the river from all areas of the site. Pathways and outdoor gathering spaces encourage use and access by residents and visitors alike," says Avril Woodend, a landscape architect at Forma Design Inc. The landscape plan includes a public beach, a children's play area, a ire-pit area and pathway connections to the street side of the building. Consideration of the northern climate and short summers entailed a fairly restrained palette for the hardscape and planting design. Resilient, drought-tolerant species were called for. Whitehorse has little year-round precipitation and the site's location is quite windy as air currents are funnelled down the Yukon River valley. "It's a challenging site," says Woodend. Plants included grasses, willows, conifers and lowering shrubs. "All had to be hardy," she says. But, thanks to the planned exhibits and arts and craft shows, the building's HVAC system is sophisticated. "The client wanted a building that would meet Class A exhibition requirements – and this allows only a very narrow band or range of temperature and humidity," says Goran Ostojic, a managing partner at Cobalt Engineering Ltd. The monitoring and control system is strongly integrated with HVAC equipment and includes CO2 sensors so the system responds ef iciently to ventilation requirements and occupancy levels. Construction began in April 2010, while the ground was frozen to a depth of three feet. Heavy equipment was brought in – including a D8 bulldozer to break up the ground, says Gavin Yee, a senior project director with Stuart Olson Dominion Construction Ltd. The project hit a snag that could have compromised the schedule when hydrocarbons and heavy metal soil contamination were encountered. "Soil remediation and con irmation of clean up was necessary before those soils could be hauled off site," says Yee. But, the construction team was able to sequence the excavation and hauling process in a way that kept the project on schedule. ■ LOCATION 1171 First Avenue Whitehorse, Yukon OWNER/DEVELOPER Kwanlin Dün First Nation ARCHITECT/STRUCTURAL/CIVIL CONSULTANT David Nairne & Associates Ltd. GENERAL CONTRACTOR Stuart Olson Dominion Construction Ltd. MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT Cobalt Engineering Ltd. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Forma Design Inc. TOTAL AREA 40,000 square feet TOTAL CONSTRUCTION COST $25 million Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and Whitehorse Public Library 7/13/12 10:48 AM

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