Canadian Interiors


Feature

East Coast’s Roots

Halifax’s new community space, office and educational workshop relates directly to its African community’s ancestries.


As an Africentric-based institute that focuses on educational excellence, the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute (DBDLI) assists learners of African ancestry in Nova Scotia, identifying and addressing gaps and equity issues through research, publication and education. In many regards, the DBDLI is the clearing house in Nova Scotia for those with African ancestry, passing along wisdom and shaping scholarship.

Photography by Julian Parkinson

This project started with the notion of the DBDLI as the collectors and distributors of knowledge related to African ancestry in Nova Scotia. Ghanaian culture was a focus, in particular Adinkra symbols, which are essential in that culture to express ideas. These symbols, woven into cloth and stamped on pottery, are rich with proverbial meaning, depicting historical events, human behaviour and attitudes, animal behaviour, plant life, and the shapes of objects. Adinkra cloth uses a combination of symbols for storytelling and passing on knowledge, an apt trope for DBDLI, an organization that acts as elder for its community.

Photography by Julian Parkinson

Adinkra printing blocks, often made of woodcuts or carved calabash (a type of gourd), are inked for use in print, using natural dyes. From architecture to signage, from material to finish, the Adinkra woodcuts informed the overall design led by a consortium of Ekistics Planning and Design and Form:Media. At the large scale, individual offices seem to have been carved from a large block with a blackened exterior and natural wood interior finish. At the small scale, multiple stacked inked blocks make up walls. Simple black-vinyl linework, evocative of screen printing and handmade cloth, provides safety and privacy screening on glass. Black and white is the basis of the project’s palette, along with hints of red and yellow, referencing its African roots, in addition to a sparing use of brass on door identification, lighting and desk surfaces.

Photography by Julian Parkinson

The 4,500-sq.-ft. environment provides flexible work space meant to be either open or sectioned off. A movable partition allows a large community space to subdivide into a boardroom and a classroom, while the rest of the office combines private and open workspaces. In addition to culturally-appropriate artwork, the office includes a gallery for the display of contemporary artwork from the community.

 


John deWolf is vice president of Dartmouth, N.S.-based Form:Media

Photography by Julian Parkinson


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