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Habiter le Nord québécois


Habiter le Nord québécois


Inuit Know-How

Let Inuit Knowledge and Expertise Guide the Way

Daniel Annanack

Interview with LINQ (2023)

"A dream home is to live by my own rules […]. I want to build what I want to build. Carve what I want to carve and mix it with traditional things like a kayak frame. It would be good to experiment."

lnuit building know-how affirms itself within the village where porches and other additions to houses bear distinct marks. Self-built cabins on the land exhibit inherited techniques and knowledge, such as orientation according to seasonal use. Each cabin is an original, thoughtful manifestation of Inuit design sensibilities and heritage through upcycled materials.

Inuit ingenuity is effervescent and is expressed in many forms. Inuit have built their own homes for thousands of years. Despite this, however, a large majority of construction workers currently come from the South.

What can be done to enable more Inuit to make an actual year-long career in construction? How can Inuit know-how be used as a lever toward greater autonomy and self-sufficiency—especially to produce quality housing?

What We've Learned

Paths for Change

Inuit know-how could be reflected and integrated in targeted professional training programs for the youth who are eager to learn new skills.

Mentoring is often mentioned as key in a process of learning by doing. Community initiatives such as a “hackathon” encourage creativity and participation in creating something tangible and useful for the community while affirming the ambitions and empowerment of Inuit youth.

In the construction industry, working conditions—especially schedules—should adapt to the Inuit workforce’s seasonal lifestyle and participation in community life.

Inuit construction techniques find their source in traditional activities practiced on the land through generations. For example, techniques traditionally used for crafting kayaks or sewing fabrics could inspire new constructions to integrate and display Inuit know-how in both process and result as well as instill empowerment, pride, and a sense of belonging in local workers.

Calls to Action

46. Create new training opportunities for Inuit

  • Establish local professional training programs in construction to develop a skilled labour force in Nunavik.

  • Promote apprenticeships based on trust between mentors and apprentices.

  • Promote Inuit-led construction initiatives, such as solidarity coops, on-site training, and other startups, to follow in the footsteps of local innovators.

47. Encourage aptitudes for making and design

  • Promote opportunities for makers and creators (kayaks, sculpture, sewing, etc.) to contribute to the transformation of built environments.

  • Develop Inuit-led training programs in design fields, including architecture and urban design

48. Adapt construction schedules to the seasons

  • Organize building site timelines and calendars to fit with the Inuit way of life by respecting hunting periods, work-life balance, etc.

  • Ensure year-round construction schedules, including during winter, to provide Inuit with steady jobs and income. (See Prefabrication key)

49. Adapt construction techniques to Inuit know-how

  • Use local traditional expertise to adjust or rethink construction or assembly methods. For example, take inspiration from kayak making, sewing, stone carving, igloo building, etc.

50. Include small workshops as extensions of homes

  • Encourage the construction of individual or mutualized workshops dedicated to sharing skills (creating, building, making) and practicing traditional activities.

  • Locate them near or as extensions of the home to create mixed-use neighbourhoods and perpetuate the transfer of Inuit know-how

Inuit are born makers. They actively exercise their skills, even if vernacular design traditions have been ignored by Southern decision makers and their institutional view of what qualifies as accepted building knowledge.

In Kangiqsualujjuaq, the proposed makerspace draws inspiration from the local making culture with the intent to explore alternative, locally driven initiatives for the sustainable development of the village.

Located next to Illuriaq School, the makerspace includes a variety of spaces for learning, thus expanding opportunities for training and innovation. A room equipped with machines allows for construction and assembly. Flex spaces (worktables, craft area) foster creative activities near a kitchenette and hearth. A summer classroom combined with an outside deck open-up the teaching areas to natural light and to the community.

Watch video here

By I. Edmonds, McEwen School of Architecture, Laurentian University, 2021

Learning by Making: Makerspace as Local Construction Ecosystem

Innovations: Thinking Outside the Box

Learning by Making

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Open Access

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