A new community centre designed for the remote Nunavik Inuit communities in Canada has an intriguing shape that was inspired by the silhouette of an iceberg.
Despite living in extremely isolated communities, Nunavik’s Inuit do not hesitate travelling long distances to visit each other or to attend an important cultural event. Originally planned as a showcase for the Inuit Games, the facility lends itself to all sorts of events, from storytelling, singing and dancing to concerts, films, banquets and other types of gatherings.
The 680-square-metre building is located near the mouth of the Great Whale River in northern Canada. Designed by Blouin Orzes architects, the slightly lopsided one-and-a-half-storey exterior volume “seems to have been shaped by the strong winter winds”, explain the architects.
A light aerial structure signals the entrance portico, facing south, echoing the porch of the nearby church, the village’s oldest structure. The portico can be reached through a gently sloping concrete ramp, which creates an additional gathering and play area for the community.
“Given the building’s function and because of high heating costs, the lobby is the only area of the building with large openings. It opens directly to the main hall, which can accommodate up to 300 people. Thanks to retractable seating and its state-of-the-art scenic equipment, the hall lends itself to various types of events. Translation and video conferencing facilities also allow the community to hold assemblies. A small platform floating above serves as the hall’s control booth.”
Pre-painted wood planks were used for the exterior cladding along with steel panels. The warm colour of the planks was meant to recall the sand dune on which the village is built, an uncommon situation as most northern communities sit on permafrost.
Building in the area was a major challenge. “Long-term planning is needed to achieve any project in the North,” say the architects. “For us, it means consulting with the community and accompanying the client during a process that can last for years. Project financing represents yet another major challenge since construction costs in northern regions are often triple what they are in Canada’s urban areas. Finally, because materials and building components can only be shipped during a brief summer season, accurate scheduling is of crucial importance.”
Photography by Blouin Orzes architects