The Rise of Ephemeral and Mobile Architecture in Canada’s Arctic

To date, scholarly research on this cultural landscape has been limited, and presents, in aggregate, a misleading portrayal of Inuit built ephemeral and mobile architecture. Cultural anthropologists and cultural geographers tend to consider the Inuit-built modifications and new constructions as the result of a society of “unsympathetic Users” rather than reflecting one longing for self-expression and self-realization. At the same time, these studies have largely concentrated on the internal activity and layouts of government housing, as opposed to the modifications and self-built constructions that generate activity around the houses. While these studies often report the inappropriateness of Canadian government house design, little has been learnt from the Inuit initiated modifications and new constructions. Yet these constructions are telling of the deficiencies built into the government houses, and suggest the need for a better understanding of contemporary Inuit culture that would promote their participation into the design/build process. Over the past 50 years, however, community planning for housing in Clyde River has steadfastly followed an outdated bureaucratic approach as opposed to a flexible and cooperative one. This research posits Inuit as important producers of hybrid space and argues that self-built constructions, despite their informal and dynamic composition, provide valuable insights into the creation of more suitable and sustainable Arctic housing.

Project leads: 
Susane Havelka – McGill University