Is it possible to talk about globalized architecture in one of the most remote and least densely populated regions in the world? Curated by Lateral Office of Toronto, the exhibition Arctic Adaptions at the Canadian Pavilion in Venice explores adaptive architecture in Nunavut. www.arcticadaptations.ca – labiennale.org – lateraloffice.com
Nunavut, is Canada’s most northerly territory that counts about 33,000 people living in 25 communities across two million square kilometres. These communities are located above the tree line and with no roads connecting them and live in regions where climate, geography, and local culture challenge the “Absorbing Modernity” issue raised during the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Rem Koolhas.
Even if Nunavut is only 15 years old, the indigenous Inuit people have inhabited the Canadian Arctic for millennia as a traditionally semi-nomadic people. Inuit relations with Canada have been fraught with acts of neglect, resistance, and negotiation. Throughout the last 100 years, architecture, infrastructure, and settlements have been the tools for these acts. People have been re-located; trading posts, military infrastructure, and research stations have been built; and small settlements are now emerging as Arctic cities.
Some have described this rapid confrontation with modernity as a transition from igloos to internet compressed into forty years. This abruptness has revealed powerful traits among its people—adaptation and resilience—qualities which modern architecture has often lacked.
Few places exemplify the ability to adapt in the face of modernity better than Nunavut. Coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the territory, which changed Canada’s map, Arctic Adaptations explores modernism’s legacy within the contextual particularities of the North.
The exhibition documents Nunavut architectural history, describes the contemporary realities of life in its communities and examines a projected role for architecture moving forward. It argues that modern Inuit cultures continue to evolve and merge the traditional and the contemporary in unique and innovative ways, and questions whether architecture, which has largely failed this region—both technically and socially—can be equally innovative and adaptive.