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Habiter le Nord québécois


Habiter le Nord québécois


Relation to Ground

Find Sustainable Ways to Anchor

Olivia Ikey

Inuit 101 presentation (2023)

"I remember my first time in Quebec City. I wasdriving on top of a mountain, but it was filled with pavement. And all I could think was “the mountain cannot breathe”. You think this thing is dead? It’s alive!"

A dwelling’s first relationship with the land is with the ground. Once taken for granted, this connection has waned due to current settlement forms with levelled, compacted gravel pads and houses set on adjustable jacks. In both imagination and reality, this type of foundation negatively reinforces the “exogenous” character of the village and its disconnection from the land. In great contrast with the natural landscape, the overuse of gravel around houses makes for a sterile environment and further distances the village from the land’s most valued qualities.

In Nunavik, where permafrost is a major challenge, essential services (oil, clean water, sewage retrieval) are delivered by trucks rather than infrastructure. Although they bring employment, trucks are a source of pollution (air, noise, spillage), have negative consequences on village design (scale, safety), and can be unreliable (mechanical breaks). In addition, houses often share water and sewage tanks, which can spark tension among neighbours when they are contaminated or overflow.

What We've Learned

Paths for Change

Alternative types of foundations broaden the possibilities for building sites in the village (including bedrock or rock outcrops). Screw jacks, for example, provide solid, versatile anchoring options. Building houses on previously overlooked bedrock sites creates opportunities for village consolidation while using less gravel (already in shortage) and avoiding increasingly unstable permafrost areas. In the case of unleveled sites, the use of a footbridge to link with the street creates an informal meeting space. Minimal gravel can be used for parking or storage near the house.

Alternative anchoring strategies are another way to preserve the ground’s natural cover, as an extensive space to do family activities. Smoothing the transition between housing areas and the land gently reweaves and strengthens the connection to Nuna. New ways to relate to the ground echo Inuit culture, where the land belongs to and benefits everyone.

Alternative infrastructure systems for reliable water quality and delivery can provide more sustainable solutions, preserve soils, and offer new job opportunities while reducing the dependency on trucks and pads.

Calls to Action

51. Reduce buildings footprints

  • Choose appropriate foundations to preserve the natural soil and maintain/reinforce the inhabitants’ connection to the ground.

  • Enforce land preservation areas designated by the community.

52. Curb the use of gravel pads

  • Reserve/reuse existing pads or granular material for new construction (buildings, roads, parking) before building new ones, particularly in a context of gravel shortage.

53. Prioritize bedrock sites for construction

  • Review the potential of overlooked bedrock sites within the village and the possibilities offered through new techniques and foundations, such as piles, concrete or stonewalls, cut and fill, etc.

  • Consult Permafrost Data Nunavik for updated information.

54. Gradually replace trucks with smart infrastructure

  • Explore alternative systems for appropriate sectors of the village to rely less on trucks for water service and reduce the need for pads.

  • Combine walkways and utilidors, among other strategies, to form a structuring and useful network for reliable water quality.

By combining Salluit’s climatic and geomorphological data with demographic forecasts over nearly a century, this project imagines development scenarios that optimize the use of local constructible spaces (on bedrock) and give Salluimmiut free rein to their social and cultural aspirations.

A strategy to “cut and fill” the rock incline yields level sites to develop not too far from the village, as well as granular material for the streets (without resorting to the depleting quarry). Houses are anchored to the rock and form a compact neighbourhood. In fact, this scenario is three times denser than are Salluit’s current neighbourhoods.

Along one axis, main streets welcome community buildings. Along the sloping rocky ridges, pedestrian walkways give access to various types of dwellings and spaces for traditional activities. These walkways also allow for technical solutions tested elsewhere in the Arctic, such as utilidors.

The new neighbourhood brings people together in a solidary, sustainable living environment.

Watch video here

By M. Avarello, N. Delucinge and S. Gauthier, École d’architecture de l’Université Laval, 2018

Strategic Scenarios for Salluit

Innovations: Thinking Outside the Box

Nuvisavik : Where We Weave

Community facilities

Housing as Empowerment


One with the Land

Community facilities

Inuit Sense of Place

Community facilities

Strategic Scenarios for Salluit

Thinking the urban


Open Access

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