USAY’s New Headquarters in Calgary / Lemay

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The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) and Lemay, an architecture and design firm, are breaking ground on a new youth centre in Calgary’s Forest Lawn neighborhood. This Indigenous-led initiative, in collaboration with Lemay, aims to create a space that fosters accessibility, safety, cultural relevance, and efficiency. The youth center, scheduled for completion by March 2024, represents a significant milestone in USAY’s 15-year journey of empowering Indigenous youth.

LeeAnne Ireland, Executive Director of USAY, expresses enthusiasm about the construction of the new building. She states, “We are thrilled to announce the construction of our new building, which will serve as a safe and supportive space in Calgary, empowering Indigenous youth with the resources and support they need to succeed. With this new facility, we will be able to expand our programming and reach even more young people in the community. We believe that this project will have a significant and positive impact on the lives of Indigenous youth in Calgary, and we are excited to see the difference it will make.”

Spanning nearly 5,000 square feet, the youth center will offer three primary spaces across two floors. The main floor will feature a communal gathering area that aligns with Indigenous traditions of feasting. It will also include a multipurpose Maker’s Space designed for USAY’s STEAM programming, providing learning opportunities and cultural exchange for Indigenous youth, including those identifying as non-binary.

The second floor will house staff offices, partnership meeting rooms, and overflow areas for youth skill-building, practicums, and employment opportunities. Adjacent to the building, a 6,400 square foot outdoor lot will provide space for various activities such as sports, markets, food handouts, employment fairs, and drum circles.

Grace Coulter Sherlock, Regional Director of Lemay’s Western Canada office and Design Director for USAY’s youth center, emphasizes the importance of a participatory approach to design. She explains, “Lemay’s practice model focuses on creating open dialogues and taking the time to understand the needs of communities. By working closely with USAY, we have created a safe and essential space for Indigenous youth.”

The design of the youth center emphasizes accessibility and privacy. The spaces are distinct yet permeable, promoting a sense of togetherness while respecting individual privacy. Barrier-free entries and hallways, combined with wood and translucent polycarbonate panels, enhance the overall design.

Sustainability is a key consideration in the center’s design. Passive strategies, such as solar gain and biophilic elements, will harness natural lighting and materials like wood and plant life. Additionally, the rooftop space is prepared for the future integration of solar panels to improve energy efficiency and reduce operational costs.

While USAY has received $3,920,000 in funding from the Government of Canada, they are actively seeking donations to complete the project. With 90% of the funding secured, the organization aims to raise an additional $500,000 to fully realize their vision.

The completion of the new youth center signifies a significant milestone in USAY’s journey to support Indigenous youth in Calgary. Through their collaboration with Lemay, USAY aims to create a space where Indigenous youth can find a sense of belonging, personal development, and empowerment.

Technical sheet

Client: USAY
Architecture: Lemay
Interior Design: Lemay
Landscape Architecture: Lemay
Sustainability: Lemay
Structural Engineering : ELEMA
Civil Engineering : McElhanney
Mechanical & Electrical Engineering: MCW
Geotechnical Engineering: Terracon
Real Estate: Avison and Young
General contractor: Synergy

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