Douglas Cardinal

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Douglas Cardinal
Douglas Cardinal - 2016 (25010970829).jpg
Cardinal in 2016
Born (1934-03-07) 7 March 1934 (age 85)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia; University of Texas at Austin,
ProjectsNational Museum of the American Indian; Grande Prairie Regional College; Canadian Museum of History;

Douglas Joseph Cardinal, OC (born 7 March 1934) is an Indigenous Canadian architect based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Famous for flowing architecture marked with smooth curvilinear forms and influenced by his Aboriginal heritage as well as European Expressionist architecture,[1][2] Cardinal is perhaps best known for his designs of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec (1989) and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (1998).


Cardinal was born in Calgary, Alberta, the eldest of eight children of Métis, Blackfoot/Kainai, German and Algonquin heritage. He grew up in Red Deer, Alberta where he attended St. Joseph's Convent Residential School.[1]

In 1953, he attended the University of British Columbia; he later attended the University of Texas at Austin, from which he graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1963.


Cardinal opened his private practice in 1964, and the same year he was commissioned to design St. Mary's Church in Red Deer, Alberta.[3] Construction was completed in 1968, and it has since been recognized as a prominent example in the history of Canadian architecture. In 2007 the church was featured on a Canada Post stamp series featuring four Canadian architects to commemorate the centennial of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC).[4]

Beginning with his work on St. Mary's, Cardinal was one of the first North American architects to use computers to assist in the design process. His curvilinear designs reflect the landscape around them, so that people making use of the building can retain a sense of the surrounding land.

Canadian Museum of History

In 1993, he was hired by The Smithsonian Institution as the Primary Design Architect for the National Museum of the American Indian, or NMAI. The NMAI is situated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and directly faces the Capital of the United States of America. After contractual disputes, Cardinal was removed from the project in 1998 before it was completed, but he continued to provide input into the building's design.

In 2001, Cardinal received a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts in recognition of his contribution to Canadian and international architecture.[2]

In 2008, his firm was hired by the Kirkland Foundation to design a museum/convention center in Union City, Tenn. The Discovery Park of America was to be a unique structure housing a multi level museum with artifacts from across the nation as well as provide a place for large conventions/meetings for the community. Early in 2009 the firm's contract was terminated with the owner, and all construction activity was halted, due to undisclosed differences between the two parties.


In 2005 Douglas Cardinal was awards the The Distinguished Artist Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta for “creating an indigenous style of Canadian architecture, characterized by gracious organic forms, which continually challenged the most advanced engineering standards.”[5]


Among the many projects Cardinal has completed in his career are the following:[6]


  1. ^ a b Douglas Cardinal, The Canadian Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b Douglas Cardinal, The Canada Council for the Arts
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "2005 - Douglas Cardinal 2005 – Douglas Cardinal". Lieutenang Governor of Alberta Arts Awards. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  6. ^ Doyle, Richard I. (2001). Renaissance II: Canadian creativity and innovation in the new millennium. Intercept Ltd. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-660-18397-8.
  7. ^ a b c d Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.

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