For the first time in the 14-year history of the International Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Nunavut flag flew at the entrance to the Canadian Pavilion,an Inukshukfloating at the entrance of “Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15.”
The exhibit, curated by architects Lola Sheppard and Mason White, from Toronto-based design firm Lateral Office, coincides with the 15th anniversary of the territory’s creation. Arctic Adaptationsdocuments architectural history in Nunavut, describing the realities of its communities, introducing the future role of architecture, and responding to the theme suggested by the director of the Biennale, Rem Koolhaas: Absorbing Modernity, 1914–2014.
“We hope that people will not settle for generic architecture,” said White, “but instead, celebrate contemporary traditional culture, through traditional contemporary buildings. This is what we wished to show, that it is possible to envision buildings that respond to the culture, geography and territory of Nunavut.”
Kirt Ejesiak, president of Panaq Design, an Iqaluit-based consultant group offering construction services in Nunavut, emphasizes, “it is time to understand that the North is not a white mass of nothing! The exhibition provides an introduction to our challenges in the Arctic, and hopefully incites people to visit us, see first hand our challenges when building in the North. The main one is to understand the Inuit lifestyle and take into account our hunting, fishing and harsh environment, in a way that does not bankrupt the organizations, as it is very expensive. Also, this project empowers the Inuit to become part of the process, with an architecture that makes sense to us; because building design has always been done by people from outside, with ideas totally disconnected from our reality.”