Studio Brief: This first-year master’s studio proposed new housing strategies and designs for rapidly growing populations in two Inuit villages in northern Québec. Moving away from the top-down housing interventions of the past, the studio engaged students with addressing local needs and interests in the design process.
Investigation: The formerly nomadic Inuit of Nunavik, a region in northern Québec, have recently transitioned to a stationary lifestyle, mostly through government-subsidized housing. But they had little say in how their homes were designed and their culture shaped. With Canadian government funding and in partnership with other universities, Université Laval is pursuing a multifront effort to reimagine the communities’ design and self-determination.
A Université Laval architecture studio, led by professor Myriam Blais, looked at how housing can better meet the communities’ needs at a variety of scales—from territorial conditions to construction details that would withstand Arctic conditions. Students took a long-term view of how the Inuit can guide village planning and housing. “These villages have to think about the future,” Blais says. “People should feel that they can be more involved.”
The studio took a weeklong trip to visit the villages, study the pre-existing housing, and meet with local leaders to learn about their changing lifestyle.
The jury was impressed by the range of approaches and the overall sensitivity to the community’s needs. “It’s talking about the site in a way that is aware of anthropology, but really fresh,” juror V. Mitch McEwen said. “And the architecture resonates with that.”
The North, As Perceived
Mélissa Mailhot’s proposal for a new type of dwelling features a large enclosed porch that is inspired by the construction of Inuit kayaks. The house rises on piers to minimize impact on the landscape and is constructed of recycled and recyclable materials. The porch can be opened to the rest of the house in warmer months, increasing living area, and it provides a sheltered connection to the landscape and an insulating buffer for the living spaces during the harsh winter.
Qatigiipuut—Let’s Do It Together
Marie-Jeanne Allaire-Côté focused less on a single dwelling and more on how architecture can help to create a sense of permanence for a people who have long been nomadic. She grouped dwellings into family clusters and prioritized gathering space within them to allow the community’s tradition of collaboration to take precedence in these new static villages.
Alexandre Morin designed a housing prototype and carved its living room into a diverse series of spaces, so that a large family of eight or nine people can cohabitate while pursuing different activities. The scheme prioritizes views from the group areas to a nearby river and other landscape features, allowing the residents to maintain their connection to nature even while staying indoors together through the winter months.
Studio: Vagabond, Nomadic House (Imagination + Construction + Experience)
School: Université Laval, Faculty of Planning, Architecture, Arts and Design
Level: M.Arch., with preprofessional degree (year one)
Duration: Spring 2017 trimester
Instructor: Myriam Blais (professor)
Teaching Assistant: Simon Proulx
Students: Marie-Jeanne Allaire-Côté, Mélissa Mailhot, Alexandre Morin (submitted projects); Luna Al-Nashar, Janick Biron, Anaïs Bourassa-Denis, Julie Bradette, Audray Fréchette-Barbeau, Nicolas Jean, Delphie Laforest Pradet, Audrey Morency, Audrey Turcotte