Client:  College of New Caledonia

Needs & Opportunities

The transition from rural and remote communities to an urban environment can be a stressful experience for Indigenous college students, resulting in a high drop-out rate.  The College of New Caledonia had begun to develop a concept plan for an Indigenous housing model and asked Kim Walker to test the model and explore ideas with a group of Indigenous college students.

Project Description

Kim designed and led a charette style workshop over the course of four days with seven students.  The workshop began with an informal dinner and group building session.  We shared our skills and backgrounds, and exchanged stories about experiences related moving to attend college.  One of the special topics was the things we miss or value about home.

The next day the students began to explore the relative merits of different student housing models. We ended the day with a neighbourhood site tour to identify potentially suitable places and housing styles.  Follow-up meetings were held to refine ideas and hold discussions with other Indigenous college students.  Kim then delivered a report to the College with seven key elements for a new preferred housing model.  The participants’ words were used to describe:

  • Neighbourhood features and 10 potential locations,
  • Important physical characteristics for a new residence,
  • A phased approach to accommodate single students and families,
  • House rules that would maintain a safe and healthy living environment,
  • Space for Indigenous cultural activities,
  • Culturally appropriate management and support services, and
  • Rental and revenue arrangements.

The participants also suggested some fundraising options and considerations for taking their model to the proposal phase.


The charette began as an externally-driven exercise but the participants quickly made it their own project.  The ideas and life experiences of participating students provided valuable insights into the types of services that would work in an Indigenous student housing development.  As a result, a clearly stated vision emerged with a new and detailed model.