Living in Nunavik, Quebec: The challenges of sustainable architecture and planning in Inuit villages

Lead Author Genevieve, Vachon
Institution Contact School of Architecture, Laval University, 1 Cote de la Fabrique, Quebec City (QC) Canada G1R3V6
Co-Authors Myriam BLAIS, School of Architecture, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada; Andre CASAULT, School of Architecture, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada; Denise PICHE, School of Architecture, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada.
Theme Theme 3: Local and Traditional Knowledge
Session Name 3.2 Local and traditional knowledge in supporting business and community development in indigenous regions of the North
Presentation Type Poster
Abstract text This paper presents the results of design-research explorations into culturally, territorially and climatically appropriate architectural and urban adaptations north of the 55th parallel for Inuit villages in Nunavik, Quebec, Canada. The work is conducted as part of the larger 'Living in northern Quebec: Mobilizing, Understanding, Imagining' partnership tackling Inuit built environments through participative, interdisciplinary and intersectoral research.

The Inuit of Nunavik are facing significant challenges related to their living environments. As recent sedentary communities, they have had to deal with housing that is often designed and planned according to models imported from the south. Housing is insufficient in number, overcrowded, standardized, ill-equipped to cater to local and traditional practices, representations and aspirations, and contributes to social, familial and health problems. Current housing policies and programs often lead to hasty construction in order to respond to the most basic of needs. The Inuit communities regret not being consulted during the decision-making process and thus being not involved in planning and building housing that would be better adapted, culturally and in terms of land use. Furthermore, the effects of climate change – such as permafrost prematurely degrading habitable territories -- threaten prevalent development patterns.

Four intertwined challenges emerge as the basis for preliminary architectural and urban design proposals: 1/ addressing the sustainability and cultural responsiveness of living environments at different scales (home, street, village, territory); 2/ finding alternatives to sprawling urban forms by way of consolidating existing areas and building on rock; 3/ developing simple, energy efficient and locally resourceful construction strategies; 4/ involving Inuit citizens and local stakeholders in the planning and design of their built environment. The presentation aims to discuss a developing approach to collaborative / interdisciplinary research on northern indigenous habitats through design which tackles the different aspects -- cultural, spatial, environmental and administrative -- that give it cultural meaning.