Tlicho woman honoured for ‘professional eminence’ in architecture

Ouri Scott, a Tlicho woman living in Vancouver, has been named a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) College.

Born in Fort Simpson, she is among 41 Canadian architects to receive the prestigious honour this year.

“It was a big surprise,” she said soon after the distinction was announced. “I think the biggest thing is the recognition from my peers. Other architects who have a huge amount of experience nominating me and accepting me into the college is just a huge honour.”

A fellow of the RAIC College is “a member of the RAIC who has achieved professional eminence or has rendered distinctive service to the profession” of architecture, according to a news release announcing this year’s inductees.

Scott is an architect at Urban Arts Architecture (UAA), a Vancouver-based firm that specializes in community and cultural projects across B.C. and the Yukon.

Her interest in architecture started at a young age. She was inspired in part by her father, who she called “an eclectic builder.”

“I grew up in a house he built on the banks of the Mackenzie River, using half of a portable classroom that he built onto,” she said. “It was quite a stunning house, and it took a number of years [to build].

“It wasn’t a typical house. It had big, high ceilings, and kind of a large open space. That was certainly an influence. Then a friend of mine, Melaw Nakehk’o, told me in Grade 7 that she wanted to be an architect. I was like, ‘What’s that?’ She explained what an architect was, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to be.”

Scott went on to study community development and traditional knowledge in her undergrad, and later interned with UNESCO in Paris. She then lived in Slovakia with her husband before moving back to Vancouver and joining UAA.

She loves the work she does with the company, and pointed to the “community relationships” she builds as her favourite part of the job.

“Having a chance to learn from the communities that we’re working with about their history and culture, and then finding creative ways to bring that history and culture into the built environment, it’s really meaningful to be able to develop a strong relationship with the community and really have a chance to learn from their sharing of their traditional knowledge,” she said. “To be able to reflect that in a building and then have them say back to you, ‘You listened to us’ – for me, that’s the biggest compliment.”

Scott has been involved in many projects she’s proud of over the years, including a current endeavour.

“I’m working with the Tlicho Government on some guidelines for housing,” she said. “We were able to do some community engagement last year and we’re working towards doing some more engagement maybe this spring or summer around this housing master plan. The focus is on supporting a Tlicho way of life in housing.

“For me, as a Tlicho person, this is really a special project. [I’m excited] to be able to have the opportunity to work with my own people and to find ways to not only meet a serious housing need, but to be able to find ways of doing it in a culturally appropriate manner and to guide future development within the Tlicho region.”

Scott will be officially recognized as a fellow of the RAIC College at a May ceremony in Vancouver. As she awaits that important moment of her career, she encourages other young people from the NWT – specifically Indigenous people – to consider careers in architecture.

“There are not a lot of Indigenous architects, and, you know, we really need more,” she said. “It’s a growing profession, a growing field. Having our community voices and particularly having Northern voices heard in a meaningful way is important to the future development of the North.

“I encourage anybody who’s interested to pursue it and if they have any questions about architecture, I’m always happy to sit down with anybody.”

Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North