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« Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15 represents Canada at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
Organized and curated by Lateral Office of Toronto, Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15 is Canada’s national exhibition at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition surveys a recent architectural past, a current urbanizing present, and a projective near future of adaptive architecture in Nunavut. Nunavut, which means “our land”, is Canada’s newest, largest, and most northerly territory. It separated from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999 following a hard-fought land claims agreement established in 1993. Today, there are almost 33,000 people living in 25 communities across two million square kilometres, making Nunavut one of the least densely populated regions in the world. These communities, located above the tree line and with no roads connecting them, range in population from 120 in the smallest hamlet to 7,000 in Nunavut’s capital city of Iqaluit. The climate, geography, and people of Nunavut, as well as the wider Canadian Arctic, challenge the viability of a universalizing modernity.
Following the age of polar exploration in the 20th century, modern architecture encroached on this remote and vast region of Canada in the name of sovereignty, aboriginal affairs management, or trade, among others. However, the indigenous Inuit people have inhabited the Canadian Arctic for millennia as a traditionally semi-nomadic people. Inuit relations with Canada have been fraught with acts of neglect, resistance and negotiation. Throughout the last 100 years, architecture, infrastructure, and settlements have been the tools for these acts. People have been relocated; trading posts, military infrastructure, and research stations have been built; and small settlements are now emerging as Arctic cities. Some have described this rapid confrontation with modernity as a transition “from igloos to internet” compressed into 40 years. This abruptness has revealed powerful traits among its people—adaptation and resilience—qualities which modern architecture has often lacked. »
(Photo: Gordon Robertson Educational Centre, Papineau Gérin-Lajoie Leblanc, 1973, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada; Courtesy Guy Gérin-Lajoie.)