Location: Manistee, Michigan
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ (LRBOI) new Governmental Center, located in Manistee, Michigan, centralizes the branches of government and consolidates departments. Charrettes with the Tribe resulted in multiple plans to achieve balance of tradition, function and convenience for visitors and employees. Initial design efforts focused on developing interiors that harmonize with the overall environment. LRBOI desired an interior design sensitive to Tribal cultural traditions without being stereotypical or maudlin. Thus, the design is notably sensitive to honoring Tribal heritage and culture. The result is unique, timeless, and reflective. The shape and design treatments infuse symbolism of the “Long House” of the Woodland Indians with extensive use of native Michigan materials. Earth, sky, water, fire and rock are evident in ceramics, skylights, waterfall, exposed timber and fire place/fire pit. The Governmental Center’s 54,000 square feet of interiors radiates with serenity and respect for the surrounding environment while welcoming Tribal members to enjoy their governmental center. Natural elements were incorporated to create the ambiance of meditating in the forest. The floors in public spaces are concrete tile symbolic of sand and stone. The reception area is detailed in a style that reflects the artistry of the Tribe with stained wood installed to look like abstract twigs. Murals of birch trees and a river bank welcome visitors at key entry points. Exam rooms include wood plank vinyl tile with soft blue green walls and leaf pattern upholstery on chairs. Elements that more specifically reflect the art, culture and respect for nature include basket weave wall cladding, river rock fire pits, earth tone paint colors, birch wood finishes and handcrafted ceramics. Background colors are inspired by animal hides; brighter accent colors inspired by beadwork. The result is a timeless and culturally sensitive design that meets the operational needs of today’s demands.