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Attention to architecture

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 03/05) - When Chris Clarke was a child moving around the North, he would draw meticulous blueprints of the different homes he lived in.

NNSL photo/graphic

Studying architecture has taken former Yellowknife resident Chris Clarke to Barcelona, Spain, and all over Europe. The recent Power Corporation of Canada award recipient is pictured on the roof of the Milan Cathedral in Italy last fall.

That love of buildings and their design led the 28-year-old to study architecture at the University of Calgary.

This summer, the Metis student who was born in Hay River, turned that into a $10,000 award from the Power Corporation of Canada to study the aboriginal aesthetic in architecture at the Canada Centre for Architecture in Montreal.

Clarke, a Sir John Franklin high school grad, was in Niagara Falls, New York, examining a building in the shape of a turtle this week.

Research like this is part of Clarke's summer. He thinks his unique focus on aboriginal architecture likely won him the award, which is handed out to two architecture students nationally each year.

"There's not a lot of research done on buildings and their relationship to aboriginals," the member of the NWT Metis Nation says.

Finding a connection to the land and nature in buildings built for and by aboriginal people isn't always easy, says Clarke. "In the past, a lot of times we just received buildings that were built by the government and they were square boxes," he says.

"Why don't we look more into sustainable design? As opposed to building on one cultural aspect, build on what the basis of that cultural aspect is, which is a connection to land, to the environment."

Green and sustainable building, such as using the passive heat from the sun and having minimal impact on the land, is a big part of Clarke's thesis.

He'll take his research back to Calgary in the fall to complete his masters of architecture, but then Clarke hopes to return North with his ideas to respond more to aboriginal culture in its buildings.

"I've been immersed in the (aboriginal) culture all my life. I know how to assimilate that into something that can be built and used properly," he says.