The Gathering Circle is an open-air pavilion located within the Spirit Garden at Prince Arthur’s Landing on Thunder Bay’s Downtown Waterfront. The Spirit Garden is a headland extending into Lake Superior and is one component of a larger revitalized public park. The Gathering Circle is the main structure within the Spirit Garden, and gives expression to the deep cultural and historic roots that link Aboriginal peoples to the Lake Superior shoreline. Its design reflects an adaptation of a traditional Aboriginal bentwood building technique, using modest means of construction and sustainable building practice. Young spruce trees were harvested in the spring by a local Aboriginal craftsman and were bent and lashed to create twenty arched, truss-like column supports.
The trusses were then mounted along the circumference of the circular platform and layered with a pattern of curved cedar strips creating a semi-enclosed shroud. The platform is a circular drum-shaped concrete retaining wall that also provides seating for viewers into the circle. Four radiating tentacles emanate from the drum into the undulating landscape. The pattern echoes imagery associated with Anishinabe woodland art. The design was created as a collaboration between Brook McIlroy and a young Aboriginal intern architect/artist, Ryan Gorrie from Thunder Bay. The outer wall of the drum is lined with ten weathering steel laser-cut panels designed by local Aboriginal artist Randy Thomas.