Skip to content

Architects release design concept for new Indigenous learning centre on Manitoulin Island

Expanded Weengushk Film Institute will increase capacity for film students
The new building for M'Chigeeng's Weengushk Film Institute, designed by architectural firm ELASTICOFarm, is meant to resemble a turtle, an important symbol in Indigenous culture.

The first conceptual image of the Weengushk Film Institute's (WFI) new learning centre has been released to the public.

Located in M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island, WFI was founded in 2002 by Dr. Shirley Cheechoo, the well-known and highly respected James Bay Cree artist, actor and filmmaker, to train, develop, guide and mentor young emerging artists in the film and television arts.

The learning centre – dubbed the Turtle Island Project – will expand capacity at the popular institute, which can currently only accommodate 10 to 15 students at a time.

Tasked with its design is Stefano Pujatti of the architectural firm ELASTICOFarm, which is headquartered in Italy but has an office in Concord, Ont.

The centre's shape will be reminiscent of a turtle, an important motif in Indigenous culture.

“I wanted the new Weengushk Film Institute's training centre to be shaped like a turtle as I have been taught that the turtle supports the world,” Cheechoo said in a news release. “It's an icon of life itself.”

Timber and stone distinctive to Manitoulin Island will be incorporated in the design to reflect the area's natural surroundings, and the structure will sit on columns to minimize its impact on the surrounding environment while also providing an outdoor space underneath for programming and public events.

Its interior will be equipped with state-of-the-art classrooms, labs and performance spaces to accommodate the expanded programming at the centre.

The centre's design, along with an accompanying art installation, is currently on display as part of the Italian pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale, an annual international architecture exhibition, which will run until November.