Pit Lecture: The “Sustainable Home” in Canadian Inuit Communities

The “Sustainable Home” in Canadian Inuit Communities: Building for the Future on Lessons Learned in the Past

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

A lecture and discussion on the topic of Northern housing in Canada.
Many Inuit where introduced to Western-style housing through the “Low cost housing programs” of the 1960s. “Low cost” went both ways. It meant providing cheap housing to Inuit who were not “poor” but lacked monetary income. It also meant building at the lowest possible cost, considering that building in the North was inevitably expensive. Since the 1960s, building for the North has been mostly a governmental issue (Federal in the Territories, Provincial in Labrador and Quebec) left to engineers and house designers with a technical focus.

However, building for Northern communities has recently raised interest among Southern Canadian architects. Also, faced with the new challenges of climate change on one hand and of sustainable development on the other, northern construction is now reconsidering its models. This new awareness is in line with the Inuit’s desire to correct the failings that plague housing in most of their communities: low standards, high maintenance costs, and over-crowding due to the shortage of affordable housing.

Dr. Collignon’s talk is based on a research project on Inuit domestic spaces conducted with the Inuit of the Western Central Arctic (the Inuinnait), and on 25 years of observation of and experience in Inuit homes. Béatrice will discuss the concept of “sustainable home” from an Inuit perspective and suggest some key elements Northern architecture should take into consideration if the housing issues of the Canadian Arctic are to be seriously addressed.

Professor Beatrice Collignon teaches social and cultural geography at the Université Bordeaux-Montaigne and is the Vice-Director of the National Research Group “Polar Mutations” (GDR Mutations Polaires – CNRS). Her work focuses on non-academic geographic knowledges. She has been conducting fieldwork among the Inuit of the Western Canadian Arctic (Inuvialuit and Inuinnait) since the early 1990s, studying toponymic systems, spatial orientation, oral tradition in relation to landscapes and worldviews, pre-settlement and contemporary domestic spaces. She is currently researching Inuinnait short-term travels within and outside the Arctic. She is the author of Knowing places – The Inuinnait, landscapes and the environnment, 2006, CCI Press, Edmonton, and numerous articles and book chapters about the Inuit as well as about geography epistemologies and a comparative approach of national geographic traditions. She has also produced four video documentaries about various aspects of Inuinnait culture.

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