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?
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.
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.
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.