Architecture Students Collaborate with One House, Many Nations

The prototype for the One House, Many Nations Muskrat Hut.

The One House, Many Nations campaign, founded by indigenous activist group Idle No More, works to address the lack of quality housing found in First Nations and other indigenous communities.

This March, Assistant Professor Jacob Mans (Architecture), who serves as a project partner to the campaign, brought its work to the School of Architecture’s annual Catalyst week. During Catalyst, students worked with indigenous leaders to design and build a prototype for a mobile, off-the-grid sustainable washroom and kitchen unit called the wachusko weesti, or muskrat hut. “The muskrat hut project addresses two critical issues that affect First Nation communities: inadequate access to safe water and a shortage of adequate housing,” explained Mans.

Part of the larger One House, Many Nations campaign, the muskrat hut has been identified as a top priority by Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) community members. “As a piece of social infrastructure, the muskrat hut will eventually help support the local community in the construction of a sustainable village,” said Mans.

The School of Architecture has also been involved with other projects within One House, Many Nations. In 2017 the University funded a grant that allowed Mans and architecture students to construct an affordable housing prototype for the Expo for Design, Innovation, and Technology (EDIT). After EDIT, the house was deconstructed and sent to OCN where it was reinstalled and is now being lived in.

“By working alongside the First Nation communities during Catalyst and listening to what community members wanted, our students learned first hand what it means—and how vital it is—to design with a community instead of for one,” said Mans. “The work the students produced will inform the final design of the building, and for that, they should be proud.”

Construction on the muskrat house began this summer and will be completed at the end of June.

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