Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Douglas Cardinal & Michel Languedoc
Date Built
100 Laurier St, Gatineau
This wonderful organic building, located on the Quebec shore of the Ottawa River, across from the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa, is home to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. 

The museum's website describes it as "a building unlike any other".  They add that, "The structure is 'geoform': its features are drawn directly from the landscape and the forces of nature which shaped the landscape. By contrast, it embodies many state-of-the-art technologies: from the evolution of its form within the "womb" of a computer's memory, through its nourishment and protection by computer-controlled environmental and security systems, to its nervous system made up of fibre-optic cables.  The building was designed by architect Douglas J. Cardinal. His architectural style is characterized by sinuous, flowing lines. The naturalistic qualities of his creations make them at once provocative and restful."


- Inside -

Among the wonderful features inside the building is the Grand Hall that includes a reconstruction of a Pacific Coast foreshore with a row of amazing totem poles infront of the highly decorative native houses.

The hall also contains the original plaster version of the "Spirit of Haida Gwaii", a sculpture by late great Haida artist Bill Reid. 

According to the Wikipedia entry for this important sculpture, the passengers on the canoe include, " ... Raven, the traditional trickster of Haida mythology, holding the steering oar; Mouse Woman, crouched under Raven's tail; Grizzly Bear, sitting at the bow and staring toward Raven; Bear Mother, Grizzly's human wife; their cubs, Good Bear (ears pointed forward) and Bad Bear (ears pointed back); Beaver, Raven's uncle; Dogfish Woman; Eagle; Frog; Wolf, claws imbedded in Beaver's back and teeth in Eagle's wing; a small human paddler in Haida garb known as the Ancient Reluctant Conscript; and, at the sculpture's focal point, the human Shaman (or Kilstlaai in Haida), who wears the Haida cloak and woven spruce root hat and holds a tall staff carved with the Seabear, Raven, and Killer whale."

The dome at the top of this wonderful staircase is decorated with an abstract painting by the native artist Alex Janvier and his son Dean.  It is entitled "Morning Star" and as the museum explains, "The circle motif represents the circle of life: spiritual and physical, human and natural. Human life, for example, is believed to make a complete circle; a person dies and then life starts again. Likewise, the colours used are meaningful. Among the Chipewyan for example, white, yellow, blue and red are significant colours, seen more frequently than others. Among Native groups generally, these colours are often seen in regalia. In addition, the creation of four distinct areas of colour is important. The number four is significant for Native Peoples: 4 seasons, 4 cardinal points, 4 directions. Janvier refers to these as "natural indicators".  The painting is a commentary on the clash of cultures that took place after Europeans arrived in North America and encountered Native peoples. This is one of the major themes addressed in the Museum's permanent exhibitions."

Close Window