The turtle is a sacred creature among North American Indigenous cultures. And though each cultural interpretation might vary slightly, the deeper, symbolic meaning of the turtle remains constant: the turtle represents Mother Earth, who teaches people to walk their paths in peace and with healing wisdom. The turtle is said to support the world and is a powerful and enduring symbol of the perseverance of Indigenous peoples as well as their deeply held respect for nature and the environment.
When native-owned Two Row Architect was asked to design Saint Paul University’s Indigenous Learning Centre in Ottawa, it was central to their vision to have the turtle represented prominently. There was only one choice for a collaborator on a project of this cultural significance and technical complexity: McIntyre Group.
Balancing creativity and craftsmanship, McIntyre’s customization team envisioned a series of 12mm, pure black ezoBord slats installed horizontally along the wall and ceiling of the Centre’s classroom corridor. The result would be a dramatic relief-style rendering of a large sea turtle, symbolic of the Indigenous cultures and wisdom that would be shared in the Learning Centre. The challenge: build this pure-black feature from 48 individually customized ezoBord slats that would allow the intricacies of the turtle profile to appear to lift seamlessly from the wall. The pure-black slat pattern would also have to carry across the suspended ceiling to create an almost immersive effect as students and visitors walked down the corridor.
Determined to bring this vision to life, McIntyre Group collaborated closely with the Ayrsonics North America™ to create a topographic map of the turtle that was brought to life as installers mounted each horizontal slat individually. Attention to detail was critical on this project, given that a single slat out of place, even a fraction of a millimeter, would destroy the optics of the three-dimensional turtle. Additionally, installers had to ensure that neither the slats’ structural rigidity nor the sound absorption value of the ezoBord core was diminished in any way.
As with all McIntyre Group installations, the Turtle Project demanded deft craftsmanship and an artist’s eye. Two Row praised the team, noting that the result was undeniably “phenomenal,” creating a symbol of Indigenous culture that is “undeniably precise and clean.” In the end, the results speak for themselves: another breathtaking installation that captures the spirit of place, history, and culture with elegance and respect that will speak profoundly to students, staff, and guests of the Centre.
Please relay my gratitude and congratulate the installers! They did a phenomenal job. The craftsmanship is undeniably precise and clean. Simply beautiful!! (Two Row Architect)
Designer: Two Row Architect
Dealer: Vertical Interiors