Site A large stretch of land on the northeast coast of Hudson Bay, in Nunavat, a province in the Canadian arctic region.

Program This project pulls from indigenous traditions in an effort to propose healthier and more sustainable methods of making and distributing food across northern Canada.

Solution Depictions of Canada’s northern­most geography often rely on a similar trope: little else but an endless sheet of ice and snow. It’s no wonder, then, that a one-sided food distribution system of shipping non-perishable food from the south has been developed—passing high costs to the northern population without much nutritive value in return. The current system also ignores the north’s rich gaming and fishing tradition, which, for centuries, yielded fresher foods in a more sustainable way. With this in mind, Toronto-based Lateral Office—working for Nunavut Tunngavik, a group that oversees Inuit land claims—proposed a food distribution network using modern systems to expand traditional food-related practices.

The project works at a staggering range of scales, from an expansive transportation network across a region larger than many countries, down to the construction joinery details on shelters along the way. It proposes a kit of architectural parts: pre-fabricated cabins that can be used as greenhouses, freezers, meat-smoking facilities, shared kitchens, and towers for lighting and telecommunication signals. Local communities can easily build these units—from wood framing, copper skin, prefabricated joinery, and snow blocks—and tailor them to their specific needs.

The jury agreed that the Arctic Food Network stands to accomplish design’s most important task: “It’s fulfilling the Hippocratic oath of architecture,” juror Reed Kroloff said. “It makes life better for the residents—a whole lot better.” Juror John Frane noted that while the project “includes an aesthetic agenda that comes, perhaps, from our Western modernist heritage,” that it is “deeply infused with these indigenous technologies, which is really fascinating.”

Arctic Food Network
Location  Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada
Client  Nunavut Tunngavik, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
Architect  Lateral Office, Toronto—Mason White, Lola Sheppard (partners); Matthew Spremulli (associate); Ali Fard, Nicole Bouchard, Fionn Byrne (project team)
Size  80 square feet (small); 150 square feet (medium)
Cost  $80,000 (per small unit); $500,000 (per medium unit)