Website aims to help reimagine housing in Nunavik

‘Doing Things Differently’ gathers years of Inuit wisdom about what makes a good home in the North

One model of architectural designs that would be culturally accurate for living in Nunavik, as presented in the Laval University website, Doing Things Differently. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Ikey)

By Cedric Gallant - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated on Thursday, March 28, at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Years of insight about architecture and housing in Nunavik is now available in one place.

Laval University launched a new website site Wednesday, called Doing Things Differently: Atlas of Ideas to Plan, Dwell, Build a Sustainable Nunavik. It’s a collection of knowledge about Nunavik’s housing needs, as shared by elders, professionals and academics over the years.

This image shows an example of a culturally appropriate interior design for a home in Nunavik. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Ikey)

Olivia Ikey, is a consultant on the project and has been working with Laval University since 2017. Users can get informed on Inuit values and how those values can informed construction and architecture designs, she said.

“It is such a beautiful way of sharing information,” she said. “Especially for us back home who are from an oral culture, a culture of storytelling.” 

The website offers videos, visualizations and knowledge from various people who have worked on housing in the North.

It’s designed to give developers a better understanding of what building in Nunavik might require, culturally and geographically. 

Nunavik has most of its housing offered by the Government of Quebec through social housing.

“This housing bureau that comes from the south doesn’t really understand the realities of the North,” Ikey said. 

New home models that are sent up north sometimes do not suit the northern way of life, which can lead to considerable problems. Ikey pointed out the modernization of furnace systems in new homes as an example. 

“We have these old furnaces, and they are the best,” she said.

“The fancy new furnace systems were terrible for the houses. Locals were not informed on how to use them … So they were creating mould.”

Another idea the Living in Northern Quebec project offers is adaptable, multi-generation houses. This was the consensus after surveys of what Nunavimmiut wanted in their homes. 

The website also points out that one size does not fit all the Nunavik communities. For example, Kangiqsualujjuaq has trees while Salluit sits upon rock. These differing environments invite different approaches to housing construction and design.

Ikey said the university wants to make all of this information available to community members, present it at schools and help youth understand how they can also help impact housing in Nunavik.

Doing Things Differently is not just a 500-page report, but a very beautiful way to share the information back to the community,” she said.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the website.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Flabbergasted on

    This institution receives multi-million dollars of grants so that they can perform these studies and show the rest of the world just how gullible the Inuit are. A consultant. I heard she tries to play off the Inuit against the Qallunaqs. I heard she is a race baiter. So Sad.

  2. Posted by Lol on

    Those images of culturally appropriate are nice. Those look like housings for rich Scandinavian doctors and architechs not public housing for people with 7 kids and no income.

    • Posted by I’ll Take Houses for $2 Million, Alex on

      Looks like a beautiful open space that would be popular anywhere, with the “culturally appropriate” aspect apparently being a woman cutting maktaaq on a big rock, a 4-burner gas stove supposedly separate from the kitchen (or do Inuit not want kitchens?), and a guy sitting in solitary reflection by a fire. Modern furniture is just colonialism, couches are not necessary.

  3. Posted by Blue Moon on

    I see a picture of modern homes I might find anywhere in the south, along with an article chalk full of bromides about ‘wisdom’ and ‘approaches’ and ‘cultural appropriateness’.

    Is something else going on here?

  4. Posted by Isaac on

    All most Inuks ever do is imagine, reimagine and imagine again a home

  5. Posted by TAX PAYER on

    Just make ,more ” match boxes ” . The one s in the picture look like a few million each.

  6. Posted by Northerner on

    Government portrays houses for Inuit in nunavut too. They promised it long time ago. Their promise falls short as well. They talk about building four bedroom two story houses for families. Only go as far as putting it on a piece of paper. Look nice. But, end up building 2 bedroom and 1 bedroom apartments and build more apartments. Most don’t even have back door escape routes. Looks like the MLAs taking the money for themselves.

    • Posted by How it looks from here on

      In the real world people build their own houses the way they want them built. That the government is not doing that for you is not the sad story you think it is.

      • Posted by Northerner on

        So, what you’re saying is, Inuit work high paying jobs? And that the government pays for their entire month of grocery and have rent free houses like you white folks?

        • Posted by brown folks on

          Northerner- i think you have mistaken. Inuit folks are paying $60 for rent and have countless of grocery vouchers only available to Inuit. Who is these white folks you speak off with free housing and groceries? Rich Inuit are also taking advantage of this benefit.

          • Posted by Count Me In! on

            As a white person, I would love to know where I can find these free groceries and rent.

  7. Posted by S on

    The arrogance is intoxicating. We build space stations, sky scrapers, massive factories, bridges across oceans, Arctic laboratories, and cruise ships the size of a hamlet using advanced engineering but we have to consult on how to build a simple, simple, simple house?

    • Posted by Mit on

      In the Simpsons, remember when Homer meets his long-lost brother, who is a rich auto manufacturer, and let’s Homer design his own car, and then he goes broke?

  8. Posted by holly boy on

    how many millionaires does it have up north that could afford those kind of building. creating programs just to make money and just letting those poor fellow dream that will never come true. let’s dream with them.

    cultural appropriate would be an igloo dome shape which eskimo architect have invented with middle round room along with outer room’s I wonder if the architect can achieve that?

  9. Posted by Give this concept a second look on

    Take a look and think a bit. The “big slab” of stone at the most conservative calculation would weigh well in excess of 2.5 ton point loaded at three locations. something like this requires significant structural design and equipment to place it. It has a porous surface showing cracks, rough edges which make for an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. Furnaces do not cause mold, lack of air change, humidity, poor maintenance practices and occupant habits cause mold. Look at the exterior, every transition point of abutting materials or direction change, corners, slopes, horizontal, vertical segments is an opportunity for building envelope challenges of failures. One could rip this concept to shreds but why bother. Architects have long enjoyed the ploy of incorporating cultural design in their sales pitches and sketches. When the hammers come out the complications arise but then nothing is impossible if someone else is doing the work and money is no object if someone else is paying.


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