As the creative mind behind some of Canada’s most iconic buildings, Douglas Cardinal is recognized for his bold vision and commitment to his indigenous heritage.
Born in Alberta of Metis and Blackfoot heritage, Mr. Cardinal created an Indigenous style of architecture marked by smooth organic lines and influenced by his Canadian and Aboriginal heritage. His visionary work has earned him accolades around the world and eight honorary doctorate degrees from Canadian universities; he earns his ninth today from the University of Manitoba.
His creative process involves a strong community-oriented philosophy, in which he involves elders and community leaders to influence his design’s conceptual development. One of his most famous works is the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Que., which earned him numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2001.
Graduating with a degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin in 1963, Mr. Cardinal’s creative vision began to take shape in western Canada where he designed St. Mary’s Church in Red Deer, Alta. The design is reminiscent of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, except Mr. Cardinal’s church predates the Guggenheim by almost four decades. The church is made of brick and every wall, even the roof, is curved.
Other works by Mr. Cardinal include the Grande Prairie Regional College, the Edmonton Space and Science Centre, the Government Services Centre in Ponoka, Alta., First Nation University of Canada, and Thunderbird House here in Winnipeg, among many others.
Mr. Cardinal’s unique, pioneering style of architecture, rich in curvilinear forms, evokes the Canadian landscape and his Aboriginal ancestry. He believes that the design of buildings is a spiritual endeavor which demands collaboration and respect. And as his visionary creations grew ever-more complex, Mr. Cardinal began innovating the design process by incorporating computers into it; he was one of the first architects to do so.
In 1983 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. In 1990 he was awarded the Order of Canada. In 2003 he was elected a Member of the Royal Society of Canada.
Mr. Cardinal is recognized today for being an innovator, a creator, a visionary and a trailblazer.