Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

A museum baked into Canada's only desert

Civic & Culture

The Nk’Mip Desert Culture Centre’s design is a specific and sustainable response to the building’s unique context – the spectacular Canadian desert found south of the Okanagan Valley in Osoyoos, British Columbia. This 1,600-acre parcel of land, belonging to the Osoyoos Indian Band, is the largest intact remnant of this unique habitat. The rammed earth building is an extension of the remarkable site. It features indoor and outdoor exhibits that honour the cultural history of the band.

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Osoyoos, BC
8,342 sq ft
Osoyoos Indian Band

Philips Farevaag Smallenberg

DIALOG Services


This contemporary interpretation protects and respects the land while celebrating the legacy of a people.

Functioning in harmony with the site, the Cultural Centre restores a historical divide by passing on knowledge to First Nations youth.

Colours of the rammed earth walls contrast the Valley’s bright blue skies.

Nk’Mip’s design expression pushes the boundaries of First Nations architecture.

Aboriginal design is often visually inferred by times past. Nk’Mip deliberately celebrates the present.

The Osoyoos Indian Band shares an emotional relationship with its land.

This relationship, and the contemporary culture of their people, is what formed Nk’Mip.

Sustainable design approaches and materials speak to these relationships.

The Cultural Centre’s programme systematically supports the passing of knowledge.

Views of the centre are no less spectacular as the sun drops below the horizon.

The Team

If the very old will remember, the very young will listen.

Chief Dan George
Evoke DIALOG | Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre | Osoyoos, BC A museum baked into Canada's only desert
A beautiful ruin

The team wanted to design a building that would one day make a beautiful ruin…

… a building that spoke to the earth, and vice versa

As part of this vision, a natural finish connected the building to the site by using the desert’s materials: earth and pine wood.

Local experts informed on materials and building methods that would protect the sensitive desert ecosystem.

Thoroughly sustainable

The desert landscape flows over the building’s green roof and is held back by a rammed-earth wall. Artfully engineered layers carry upwards of 100 tons of weight. Its earth tones hold a thermal resistance of R33, and functions well in temperatures that range from -30 C to +40 C.

The project’s ambitious approach towards sustainable design also includes the use of bluestain pine from trees killed by the pine beetle, low-flow fixtures, waterless urinals, and facilities for the Band’s award-winning rattlesnake research project.


2007 Inspirational Leadership AwardAboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia
2007 Lieutenant–Governor of British Columbia Medal of Excellence in ArchitectureArchitectural Institute of British Columbia
2007 Wood Design Green AwardCanadian Wood Council
2008 Category Winner, World Architecture FestivalWorld Architecture Festival
2008 SAB AwardSustainable Architecture & Building Magazine