By Brent Bellamy, Senior Design Architect and Creative Director

Earlier this month, an emotional groundbreaking ceremony was held in Ottawa for Thunderhead, a LGBTTQ+ national monument set to rise in the shadow of Canada’s Parliament buildings.

The prominent new monument will recognize the courage and strength of those who were harmed by the LGBT Purge, a 40-year span of systematic government discrimination against LGBTTQ+ individuals in the federal public service, armed forces and RCMP. Once complete, the project will reach beyond its role as a memorial, striking a sympathetic balance as a place that honours the past while celebrating a creative and vibrant community, today and in the future.

The project’s design presents a layered experience that weaves together landscape and built form, realized through a collaboration between Winnipeg-based architecture and design studio Public City, artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, and Two-Spirit Advocate Albert McLeod. The site is designed as a forum for conversation and dialogue, with pathways sweeping across an undulating, tree-covered, landscape, weaving through a series of intimate gathering places designed to inspire play, conversation, storytelling, reflection, and healing. A sloping lawn will create a natural amphitheatre that invites large gatherings, performances, protests, and celebrations to the site.

The Thunderhead monument will dramatically rise at the centre of the property. First appearing as a monolithic cylinder, but as one approaches, the towering shape will break down to reveal glimpses into a striking interior volume. The form feels as though a concrete cylinder was cast around a rising and billowing thundercloud, and when the mold was peeled away, it revealed a negative space that reads as though the dynamic, fluid, and ethereal nature of the cloud has been captured and given permanence. Symbolically harnessing the power of a thundercloud that becomes stronger as it grows, fills visitors with a feeling of hope and empowerment. The cloud breaking through the rigid boundaries of the traditional cylindrical form represents the strength of activism and the power of community. The billowing interior space, covered in thousands of glass mosaic tiles, will reflect the many faces of a wonderfully diverse community, the sparkling light, a joyful reference to a disco ball.

Image: Rainbow Resource Centre Conceptual Rendering / Number TEN Architectural Group / Office In Search Of

The design of Thunderhead is an evocative and powerful statement with richly layered symbolic meaning that will create a sense of place and be a source pride for LGBTTQ+ Canadians. It will be a monument that reflects struggle, sacrifice, and sorrow, but like a storm cloud rising from the horizon, it will also evoke a sense of empowerment, where the LGBTTQ+ community can see itself, and proudly be seen by the world.

Thunderhead demonstrates that architecture and landscape architecture can be powerful forms of creative expression that shape our environment and play a vital role in promoting inclusivity, visibility, and acceptance. A significant new project in Winnipeg is hoping to further harness the power of design to inspire 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

Rainbow Resource Centre has been on the front lines of LGBTTQ+ advocacy for 50 years and is now embarking on a visionary new development called Place of Pride Campus, currently rising on Broadway near Osborne Street. As Canada’s first LGBTTQ+ campus, it will be a place where people of all ages and stages of life can come together to access resources and programs, to learn, to celebrate, and to connect with a supportive community. A first phase, developed with Westminster Housing Society, will create affordable housing for older adults in the LGBTTQ+ community — another Canadian first.

Anticipated to start construction in 2025, the crown jewel of the campus will be an elegant curving glass multi-purpose building set within a beautiful and educational landscaped garden space. Led by my colleague, architect Aaron Pollock of Number TEN Architectural Group, the design has been carefully considered to create spaces that are inclusive, affirming, and supportive. It hopes visitors will be enveloped by a sense of belonging, that upon entering will inspire them to instinctively drop their guard and feel at home. The design of the new building takes inspiration from the welcoming and inviting front porch of historic Wilson House (formerly Klinic Building) that shares the site. An organic roofline set on a series of thin double columns, extends the design language of the porch to the Broadway sidewalk, prominently establishing the building’s visibility on the street, and proudly weaving the queer community’s presence into the fabric of the neighbourhood. The architecture physically and symbolically blurs boundaries. Its glistening curved glass façade creates a transparency that visually threads layers of interior and exterior space together, and a rooftop terrace pulls the landscape up and over the building. Activity inside visually spills through the glass walls to be openly and unapologetically seen and celebrated.

Sweeping curved walls create a softness and fluidity that links interior spaces and creates a flexibility that allows all visitors to find their place of comfort. Spaces range from loud and proud moments of celebration and education with vibrant local artwork and bold colour choices imbued with symbolic meaning, to smaller, more insular spaces that allow visitors to control their level of visibility and engagement. Sightlines have been carefully choreographed to foster a feeling of safety and security throughout the building.

Image: Conceptual Rendering - Thunderhead National Monument / Public City Architecture

Thunderhead National Monument and Place of Pride Campus will demonstrate that architecture and design can play a crucial role in fostering acceptance, belonging, and empowerment for LGBTTQ+ communities. Both designs effectively incorporate ‘brave spaces’ that encourage dialogue and educational conversation, and ‘safe spaces’ that are supportive, allowing people to feel comfortable expressing themselves. Each development will play a different role in moving queer communities forward, but they will both stand as important reminders of the social value of incorporating inclusive design in all our places and spaces.



Ayla ManningBrent is a Senior Design Architect and Creative Director at Number TEN Architectural Group

Number TEN Blog

Number TEN Inspired! captures the knowledge, passion and ideas of our award winning architects, interior designers and supporting staff, as they navigate through the complexities of the modern design landscape. We are creative problem solvers, advocates for better ways of doing things, and observers of all that is interesting and noteworthy in our field. This blog is our effort to share our knowledge and ideas in a way that resonates with everyone. Whether you work in the industry as an architect, interior designer, building manager, property developer, or are just someone with an interest in creativity and new ways of doing things, this blog has something for you.