Looking Forward: Kwanlin Dün First Nation Community and Education HUB in Whitehorse, Yukon

KDFN-Education-HUBLEES+Associates has been working with Reimagine Architects and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) since 2018 on redeveloping and expanding the landscapes and spaces around their civic buildings in Whitehorse, Yukon. The KDFN consists of peoples of Southern Tutchone, Tagish, Tlingit, and other diverse backgrounds who live in the lands that define their traditional territories along the headwaters of the Chu Níikwän (known today as the Yukon River). Their name comes from what their ancestors called the area, “Kwanlin,” which means “running water through canyon” in the Southern Tutchone. The Kwanlin Dün have lived, hunted, fished, and traded in the region for millennia; they have discovered stone tools in the region dating back approximately 5000 years.

The design of their new civic buildings aims to reflect the KDFN vision of their traditional lands by preserving as much of the surrounding forest as possible as well as by incorporating water elements and natural materials.

The recently completed KDFN Kashgêk’ Building includes the nation’s chief and council offices, supportive services, and office administration for the nation. The Education HUB, currently in the detailed design phase, sits across the street and will feature an immersion play area and cultural learning outdoor classroom along with a natural play area for the KDFN’s Dusk’a Play children’s program.

The Education HUB Building blends a traditional plaza with a more park-like design approach that serves as a multi-functional gathering and events space. Blending the Yukon River into the site of the building, the dry riverbed runs from the Kashgêk’ Building and along the front of the Education HUB building. This riverbed will be fed with snowmelt and rainwater, culminating into a basin within the central courtyard and visible from the windows of the HUB’s healing room.

The Education HUB will sit across the street from the Community HUB. A circular building that starts with a single story and slowly builds to a second floor symbolizes the growing enlightenment and education that the building will enable.

KDFN-Kashgek-Building

The site reflects how Indigenous communities have traditionally used the land. Buffered by forest, the Education HUB highlights the larger river theme continuing from the Kashgêk’ Building across the street. Featuring a central courtyard, this Education HUB’s outdoor space will use natural materials, such as boulders, logs, and embankments, to create seating and a stage for ceremonial gatherings. 

Around the outside of the building, organized by a perimeter path, there will be two play areas featuring natural elements. A cultural teaching area will provide space for traditional activities such as hide tanning, drying fish, and canoe carving.

The landscape design for these two interconnected sites aims to create a place that reflects and celebrates KDFN culture and values, responds to the needs of families, children, visitors, and staff, and is rooted in the values of language, culture, and lifelong learning.

Kwanlin Dün Community Hub Landscape Design – Project page

Looking Back: Woodlands Memorial in New Westminster, B.C.

Last summer, LEES+Associates celebrated 25 years of serving the people, parks, memorials, and cemeteries of Canada. We’re so proud of the work that we’ve done over the past quarter century that we’d like to spend some time showcasing some of our early, award-winning work. 

One of LEES+Associates’ early projects was the Woodlands Memorial in New Westminster, BC, which memorialized Canadians with developmental disabilities who died while hospitalized in the Woodlands School.

Woodlands Memorial

The institution known as the Woodlands School was founded in 1878 as the B.C. “Provincial Lunatic Asylum.” While it closed in 1996 after long-standing allegations of abuse, the institution had an attached cemetery that held the remains of three thousand and thirty-seven people who died while living there. The cemetery had been closed to new burials in 1958 and, in 1977, the cemetery’s over 3000 grave markers were removed. Over time, the site was turned into a dumpsite and many of the gravestones were misplaced or misused. Some were used as patio stones. Only nine markers had been left in their original locations.

In 1999, the BC Self Advocacy Foundation and the B.C. Association for Community Living (BCACL) began work on planning a memorial to commemorate the patients who had died there. LEES+Associates helped guide the concept design process that took place over several years. Working with BCACL, our goal was to create a space where people could remember and celebrate the lives of the people with mental illness and developmental disabilities who lived and died in these institutions. More than 500 of the original grave markers were recovered and restored, although we still receive calls when additional grave markers are discovered.

In 2005, the BCACL recognized LEES+Associates with a Partnership Award for the firm’s dedicated and creative work on the garden. The garden design had three key elements: a structure called the “Window Too High” that reflects the experience of institution residents who could not see out of the high barred windows of the hospital; a pond that mirrors the pattern of burials at the cemetery; and memorial walls with the names of all those buried in the cemetery. Each memorial wall has one of the original grave markers from the site inset in its walls.

The Woodlands Memorial Garden reopened in 2007 at a ceremony hosted by the BC Ministry of Labour and Senior Citizens.

 The site has continued to change as the area around it grows. When the memorial garden was built, there was nothing nearby except the Queen’s Park Care Centre next door. Now, the garden is completely closed in by new residential towers in New Westminster. In addition to being a space to commemorate the lives of the people who died at Woodlands, it’s now an important green space for this community. It acts as a quiet space for residents and care centre employees to enjoy a moment of contemplation.

While smaller collections of headstones had been found in the past, in 2022, over 100 more headstones were found in Langley. Working with archaeologists from Golder Associates’ Heritage Group, the headstones were catalogued and carefully moved. Many of the stones were broken and a significant amount of work needed to be done to put together names and reassemble broken grave markers. LEES then added a curved wall encompassing the path of the site to accommodate these new stones.

According to Leila Zeppelin, one of LEES’ senior landscape designers who has worked on the site, adding these new locations to the original memorial is itself an important part of the story of the Woodlands Memorial. The new discoveries of gravestones remind us that these things were lost. The beauty and the challenge of memorializing a site like Woodlands is that its story is not a clean line. It has a troubled history; the site represents that trauma, in addition to the people who are buried there.

Introducing our Ontario Practice Lead

Amanda Gebhardt We are thrilled to introduce Amanda Gebhardt as our new practice lead for Ontario and Eastern Canada. Amanda joined us in April 2023 and has swiftly shown her passion for collaboration and realizing diverse and impactful projects. Her project portfolio includes cemetery expansion development, commemorative spaces, active transportation, complete streets, trails, urban parks, and environmental habitat restoration.

Amanda will be focused on the organic growth of the Ontario office in Guelph, continuing with LEES+Associates’ strong commitment to cemetery planning and design while building on the firm’s western park and recreation practice in Ontario.

With 18 years of experience in parks, trails, and cemetery design and management, Amanda brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our team, allowing us to provide excellent service to clients and projects across Canada. We encourage you to connect with Amanda and look forward to the fantastic work she will accomplish with our team.

Kelsey WalkerJoining Amanda as part of the expanding Ontario team is Kelsey Walker, a senior landscape designer with 12 years of experience across Canada. Kelsey’s experience includes planning and design assignments for parks, trails, open space, streetscapes, industrial and recreation projects in a variety of contexts, as well as a decade of experience in event and festival design and execution.

Kelsey is keen to explore the world of cemetery and memorial design and looks forward to assisting Amanda in growing the LEES+Associates presence in Ontario.

 

 

 

LEES+Associates at 25 Years!

The LEES+Associates team

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we wanted to tell you a little about where LEES+Associates started and reflect on how far we’ve come!

When Erik and Kathi Lees started LEES+Associates in 1998, he built on his long experience in horticulture, landscape design, and parks management. Erik started as part of the “Back to the Land” movement of the early 1970s. Motivated by a deep commitment to environmentalism and an interest in land systems, Erik started his “landscape” journey with a Dutch family in the Nelson area who maintained a greenhouse that grew seasonal plants. This experience led to a horticultural apprenticeship program, summer work in landscape installations, and eventually, to working for the City of Nelson, running the greenhouse for their parks during the Nelson Main Street Revitalization project of the 1980s. After experiencing park work, Erik pursued a degree in landscape architecture at UBC. While there, he also began a job as the parks manager for the District of West Vancouver, which he held for a decade. Erik in greenhouse

While working in West Vancouver, Erik oversaw the Capilano View Cemetery. He’d long had an interest in sacred spaces, as both a designer and a planner. Cemeteries are expected to bring together notions of sacredness, meaning, and ceremony, but Erik was also interested in seeing how he could bring that design perspective to parks and landscapes more broadly.

These experiences in horticulture, parks, cemeteries, and the public sector were key to Erik’s development as a landscape architect. In 1998, when Erik opened the doors of LEES+Associates, he knew that his ability to bring together a love of design with knowledge of the mechanics and operations of park systems would allow him to fill an important niche in the market. There were very few competitors working with cemeteries and memorials – and they weren’t seeing them through an experiential lens or a business lens the way that Erik was.

Erik and Kathi LeesLEES+Associates started with just Erik and Kathi. Erik had the background in landscape architecture while Kathi brought her interest in history, art, and museums. She played a critical role in the administration and strategy of the firm. The firm started growing almost immediately, hiring about one new employee per year. LEES+Associates’ office on Homer Street in Vancouver opened in 2001, followed by offices in Toronto in 2014 and Whitehorse in 2016.

With a strong design team, we were recognized for our work across multiple specialties, receiving awards for memorials, cemetery design, and parks and trails planning. Some of our award-winning projects include the Woodlands Memorial, Everett Crowley Park Management Plan, the Air India Memorial, Mountain View Cemetery redevelopment, the Komagata Maru Memorial, and Toronto’s Natural Environment Trail Strategy. Most recently, the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery project received awards from both the CSLA and ASLA for reflecting the essence of a landscape with restrained embellishment and connecting the land to the people of the community.

New owners of LEES+associates

In 2020, Heidi Redman, Richard Cook, and Megan Turnock took the helm, although Erik continues to be involved. The firm has grown significantly in the past three years. Heidi spearheaded the opening of LEES’ office in Whitehorse, which has led to increasing work in the north. Dealing with permafrost and working in arctic and remote landscapes has its unique challenges and LEES is excited to continue building this specialization. Richard directs the cemeteries and memorials practice area; he is excited to help cemeteries deal with some of the real challenges that are coming as attitudes about death and burial change and the generation of Baby Boomers begins to pass. Megan leads the firm’s work in parks and trails planning, building on her background in ecosystem restoration. The firm has been expanding its practice to include civic, cultural, and institutional projects, as well as embarking on expansion in Ontario and into the U.S.

As LEES moves into its second quarter century, we want to celebrate and build on our successes. In our newsletters for the next year, we’ll be revisiting some of our foundational projects and sharing stories from our past. We’re excited for the next 25 years!


 

Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre design team announced

LEES+Associates will provide landscape design for the long-awaited Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre in Iqaluit. The winning design team of Dorte Mandrup (Lead Architect), Guy Architects (Architect of Record), LEES+Associates, EXP Services, Adjeleian Allen Rubeli, Pageau Morel, Altus Group, and Indigenous consultants Kirt Ejesiak and Alexander Flaherty was announced on July 9th 2023 following an international design competition.

Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre - Exterior Visualizations
Exterior Visualizations: MIR

LEES+Associates is excited to have been chosen for this important project that will promote greater awareness of Inuit culture and support cultural healing and reconciliation between Inuit and non-Inuit. The centre will offer a place where Inuit can reconnect with this important part of their cultural heritage and collective past through objects, stories, and activities.

Jury Statement

The winning proposal convinced the jury with their beautiful and poetic response to the requirements outlined in the Feasibility Study and during the March Design Week in Iqaluit. Jury members felt that Mandrup heard and understood community perspectives regarding Inuit Traditional Knowledge and the healing potential for the NIHC. The reference to kalutoqaniq resonated with the jury, the prevailing wind causing shapes and patterns in the snowdrifts. They appreciated the reference to Inuit wayfinding and integration into the landscape. They liked the idea of the building growing from the land, and the glowing lights in the landscape, for the eyes of the people of Nunavut. They liked the living green roof and the idea of having the more protected functional spaces set deeper into the hill. They thought the design and shape were interesting and that the building had an efficient footprint.

Dorte Mandrup explains the concept: The design of the Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre is inspired by the landscape and the movement of the snow and the wind. Following the topographic curves and distinct longitudinal features of the terrain, the building sits parallel to the prevailing north-western winds. It carves into the rocky hillside overlooking Iqaluit with the large roof continuing the lines of the landscape and forming a new public space and a viewing platform from which visitors can enjoy the uninterrupted views towards Frobisher Bay and Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park. By taking advantage of the protective rock, the building naturally creates a shelter over the sensitive collections and exhibitions while the expansive window gesture offers a space filled with daylight and generous views towards the south-west for future gathering and activities.

Read more: Danish architecture firm wins contract to design Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre

Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre - Exterior Visualizations
Exterior Visualizations: MIR.

Elk Falls Cemetery

The development of the expansion of Elk Falls Cemetery has reached an exciting point!
The LEES+Associates cemetery design team was recently in Campbell River, BC to review the clearing and top soil grading at the Cemetery.

Elk Falls Cemetery

Elk Falls Cemetery
The concept is for a series of lawned burial pods or ‘rooms’ nestled within the existing forest. The cemetery driveway linking the burial pods has just been installed with hydroseeding of lawns and meadows slated for this week.

Section names, markers, and benches will be installed through the fall. It is hoped burial lots will be made available for sale around fall 2022.

Elk Falls Cemetery
Elk Falls Cemetery
When completed, this will be a stunning tranquil and beautiful gladed landscape for families to lay their loved ones to rest.

For more information on the design, please reach out to the LEES cemetery design team headed by Richard Cook, Principal and Patrick Beech, Landscape Designer.
Local partner Outlook provided civil engineering services for the cemetery driveway.

Elk Falls Cemetery

Cemetery Business Planning : The Basics

Join Erik Lees, founding principal of LEES+Associates, and Jennifer Thibert, CPA, CMA, for an introduction to cemetery business planning.

This webinar was offered in partnership with Western Canada Cemetery Association (WCCA) and LEES+Associates as a part of the WCCA conference.

In this one hour webinar, you will learn:

  • The importance of understanding market demand, disposition trends, and inventory vs. land capacity;
  • The unique considerations of cemetery business planning;
  • Business planning tools for cemeteries, and
  • Translating a business plan into actions.

Woodlands: The Burden of Gravity

The Burden of Gravity, an anthology of poems by Shannon McConnell “challenges readers to consider how we, in the aftermath of de-institutionalization, choose to remember institutions like Woodlands School”.

The Burden of Gravity

LEES+Associates in collaboration with many individuals who gave generously of their time and ideas, designed a memorial garden to serve as a beautiful gathering place honouring former Woodlands residents.

The Woodlands Memorial Garden project involved the recovery of some 3,000 previously removed headstones marking the graves of former residents of the Woodlands School. This work has extended over several years from guiding the concept development process, design development to construction of the Woodlands Memorial Gardens.

Work on this project remains ongoing as more headstones are discovered offsite.


Links:

The Burden of Gravity – Shannon McConnell

Review: Shannon McConnell challenges her readers to witness the burdens of memory, abuse and erasure – from the Vancouver Sun

Woodlands Memorial Garden – Project Page

 

Woodlands memorial garden
Woodlands Memorial Garden, New Westminster, BC

 

Planning Makes Perfect: An Introduction to Cemetery Master Planning

In June of 2020, LEES+Associates began offering e-learning opportunities for those new to the wonderful world of cemeteries and for those more experienced and wanting to ensure they are abreast of best practices and the latest training available.

We are excited to present the last in the series, Planning Makes Perfect: An Introduction to Cemetery Master Planning! 

In this focused webinar, you will learn:

  • The many benefits of having a plan;
  • The unique considerations of cemetery master planning;
  • Master planning tools for cemeteries and,
  • How to translate a plan into action.

Join Erik Lees, founding principal of Lees+Associates, as he integrates over 40 years of cemetery planning and design in this fast paced webinar.

Missed the other webinars? Watch them here.

Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Opening

Our team had a great visit to the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden to check out the first phase of improvements at the garden.

In 2016, LEES+Associates was retained by the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society to create a master plan and detailed plans for the Phase 1 improvements.

The Botanical Garden had a series of small openings to keep with physical distancing, so we were thrilled to be part of a very intimate ribbon cutting ceremony.

It was really nice to see all the thinking come to life from our team’s work on this;

– Bench in the ‘welcome plaza’
– Entry signage
– Entry gate (simplified but effective)
– Pedestrian entry gate on ‘welcome plaza’
– Fencing
– Concrete edging on parking lot
– Walking path
– Infiltration edge and planted berm to protect pond
– Grass pave on emergency access lane

It felt the way that we had hoped it would feel when we started this undertaking 4 years ago at the design charrette.

Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
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Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden
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