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The architecture in Iqaluit leaves two distinct impressions on my mind: the town’s military history and the harsh arctic environment.
Many of the bigger buildings are box-shaped with minimal geometric variations and sparse porthole windows. There’s a simplistic aesthetic which immediately speaks to function and weathering the blistering winds.
But it doesn’t seem there are many admirers of Iqaluit architecture.
A letter to the editor of the local newspaper in 2002 described the town’s architecture as one of fear: fear of the elements, fear of costs, fear of a unique identity and fear of imagination.
“Buildings still do not engage the landscape as they should, striding over it with complete abandon,” the letter said. “There is little attention to the streetscape…to lighting, to the human experience of the building.”
And a former reporter at the local paper described the architecture, simply, as goofy.
But there are signs that architectural designs are becoming more ambitious, if even goofier.
One architect from Toronto designed skyscrapers, made of local rocks, to sit atop glaciers and move with ocean currents. Nothing came of those designs.
And some design students, also from Ontario, pitched giant floating balls of light to Nunavut communities as a way to see them through the long, dark winters.
Much of the push for more colourful, unique buildings comes, sadly, in the form of government, especially federal, buildings, as you’ll see below. The Territorial legislative assembly, built in 1999, was seen by many as the first building to attempt creativity. And an aquatic centre slated to begin construction next summer would certainly add some colour and flare.
A project headed by a Toronto firm, called Arctic Adaptations, tried to address what many see as the abysmal state of architecture in the North earlier this year by designing buildings with five themes in mind: health, housing, education, arts and recreation.
The project was one of the top exhibits at this year’s Venice Biennale—an internationally renowned architectural fair.
“Maybe we haven’t been as intelligent as the Inuit have been in adapting to place [in the North],” the lead architect said.
This post only deals with prominent architecture of public buildings in the town; a post on housing and infrastructure will follow at a later date.
Inuksuk High School
Nakasuk Elementary School
Baffin Correctional Centre and the territorial court house
Legislative assembly and RCMP office
St. Jude Anglican Church
The Arctic Hotel, The Frobisher Inn and the Legion