Inuit Sovereignty, Inuit Architecture

Mar 01, 2023
by Nicole Luke

Architecture is a fast-paced and constantly changing industry. There are endless opportunities and specialized jobs in education, practice and research. The relationship between the architecture industry and the development of Inuit Nunangat is critical to understand for Inuit sovereignty.

The Arctic is often seen as a “new canvas” and a new opportunity or adventure for architects to establish themselves and their work, but for Inuit it is their homeland. This project highlights the many barriers Inuit face in terms of access to education in the architecture field and how Inuit—along with other Indigenous people—need to become architects of their homeland as they once were. This project aims to inspire and raise the question: who is developing our communities?

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The architecture industry has changed increasingly over the past few decades with a greater reliance on computer software and industrial developments. Arctic communities have also seen an incredible amount of change. As I completed my degrees and entered the work field, it has become more evident on how critical Arctic development will become, but where are the Inuit architects to design the built environment on our homelands?

Traditionally, Indigenous people were the architects of their own communities and in a sense still are. Now with permits, trade credentials and industrialized processes, among other controls, it is challenging of Indigenous communities to gain sovereignty of their own built environment within their own communities.


Where are the Inuit architects?

There is a very small percentage of Indigenous people within the architecture industry in Canada. Of that percentage, Inuit representation is miniscule. What does that mean for the future development of Inuit Nunangat?

The main reason I found myself pursuing architecture was because my family moved South for its endless educational opportunities and close proximity to universities. This is not necessarily the case for Inuit across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. Or even within Southern Canada.

Jumping Through Hoops

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Climate change is causing destruction on shorelines and Inuit Nunangat holds 50% of the country’s coastlines. The sea ice melt is making Northern shipping routes more accessible and resulting in more interactions with once very isolated northern communities. This is also concerning for Canadian sovereignty in terms of border protection. 

This is not to warn or scare anyone. Inuit have shown incredible resiliency and have adapted to a modern way of life, but we need to design our own communities in order to pursue our goals and navigate the variety of challenges ahead. 

NLuke Arctic Process

Let's inspire youth in the North with as many opportunities as we can.

Let’s design resilient buildings in the North to foster better living conditions.

Architects are said to be creative problem solvers, so let's find some Inuit architects eager for the challenge.

Inuit Sovereignty = Arctic Construction = Inuit Construction = Arctic Sovereignty


Nicole Luke is an emerging Indigenous designer who is passionate about culture and design. Born in the Northwest Territories with family residing in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, she is one of the first Inuk architectural graduates in Canada and the first to receive her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of Manitoba. Due to her wide exposure of urban and non-urban areas, Luke is focused on the design realities that communities face throughout the process of architecture and construction and is committed to understanding her role as a designer. She aspires to be one of the first Inuk architects in Canada and aims to involve herself in projects that will inspire youth in northern communities to pursue education in the design field. Luke believes that the built environment is a key factor to socio-economical agency and is dedicated to Indigenous initiatives as well as learning sustainable building practices.

This series was made possible with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.