Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel has opened its doors to guests in the heart of Vancouver’s historic downtown. Owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society, Skwachàys Lodge is an innovative approach to sustainable housing fusing cultural authenticity, business excellence, and community economic development.
Located at the crossroads of Vancouver’s Gastown and Chinatown neighbourhoods, the hotel’s architect preserved the century-old brick façade and designed a traditional northern longhouse to sit atop the heritage building.
The rooftop longhouse features a 40.5-foot story pole — the Dreamweaver — reaching into the Vancouver skyline. This newly-opened boutique hotel is an interior designer’s dream, with colourful, one-of-a-kind furnishings and artwork designed by six Aboriginal artists collaborating with six world-renowned local designers.
The artist and designer teams include Corrine Hunt and BBA Design Consultants; Clifton Fred and B+H CHIL Design; Lou-Anne Neel and Inside Design Studio; Sabina Hill and Mark Preston with MCM Interiors; Richard Shorty and Porada Design Group; and Jerry Whitehead with Portico Design Group.
There’s also a rooftop First Nations sweat lodge and smudge room that will soon open to guests who, together with an elder, will partake in a traditional Aboriginal cultural experience.
Custom carvings, paintings, furniture, fabrics, décor, and wall art help to create a living museum for guests who are looking for something different when seeking a place to call home in Vancouver. Seasonal rates range from $129 to $189, and up to $229 during peak months.
The main floor houses a gallery and lounge, while the second, third, and fourth floors house low-income residents, including many of the hotel’s artists.
According to Dave Eddy, CEO of the Vancouver Native Housing Society, the expression of creativity in Native art is linked to the path of of healing. Many of the Aboriginal artists who live here have faced obstacles such as addiction and poverty. The hotel aims to immerse them in a supportive, creative environment to get them back into a mainstream economic society.
Residents can only afford a portion of the rent. As Skwachàys Lodge does not take government subsidies, 100% of the gallery and hotel proceeds help subsidize the residents’ living costs.
A team of six world-class Vancouver interior designers collaborated with six Aboriginal artists to create 18 distinctly themed rooms on the fifth and sixth floors. The designers were also able to pull strings to get many elements in the rooms donated.
The Vancouver Native Housing Society created a model of social housing that’s now gaining traction as people are taking interest in the concept of social enterprise.
The name Skwachàys translates to “a place of fishing and hunting”. In Native history, False Creek was known as a place of transformation. Hereditary Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell gave the lodge its name, believing that the lodge would serve as a place of transformation for its residents.
Skwachàys Lodge is located at 29/31 West Pender Street in Vancouver.