Africville Interpretive Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Architecture49 were engaged as part of a team led by AL Arbic Consulting and Genesis Consulting to undertake a site analysis and to create an architectural concept for an interpretive centre on the site of the former community of Africville in northend Halifax, as part of a mandate to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for the project.
Upon completion, the team was engaged to carry through the remainder of the contract to design, and construct the centre. The site where the centre is located has changed significantly since the late 1960s when the area was cleared to make way for the approached to the new MacKay Bridge. Apart from demolishing all the homes and buildings, and replacing the streets with new or realighend ones, even the shoreline had been altered.
One big challenge was to give a sense of the vanished community within the context of the city (very much “on the edge”) even though that context was now virtually unrecognizable. The design incorporates a reconstruction of the Seaview Baptist Church, which had been the spiritual and emotional heart of the community throughout its history. The orientation of the interpretive centre and its relationship to the reconstructed church also supports the annual reunion and picnic, a very significant observance for former residents and their descendants. This orientation takes into account the year-round use of the Seaview Memorial Park and Africville National Historic Site, and the opportunity to enjoy the present state of the site while reflecting on what existed there in the past.