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Habiter le Nord québécois


Habiter le Nord québécois


Welcoming Spaces

Design Spaces for Living Together

Survey participant

Survey HLNQ (2022)

"A huge porch and pulaarvik is a must. When we gather, there are at least 20 to 30 people minimum."

The house plays a key role in the Inuit social structure. It is a place to gather or share among family members, to host visitors, to practice or teach traditional activities—or it can simply be a “speaking space”.

Inuit families have always lived physically close together. Traditionally, they had large tuqsuq (porches) to take off their parkas and store them away. Moreover, harvesting, hunting, and making continue to define daily life and impact the domestic environment.

Today, houses lack space to welcome long-term visitors or extended family members. Aside from not having enough bedrooms, the pulaarvik (the central space) is not well connected, porches are too small, and kitchens lack the proper space and furnishings to prepare and eat country food on the floor.

What We've Learned

Paths for Change

Welcoming and gathering spaces display qualities of openness and connectedness according to different layouts to fit with family needs. Ideally, rooms are interconnected.

More generous rooms are needed, such as the pulaarvik to welcome small or larger groups for all types of activities, including feasts and parties. Simply built cabins have a central pulaarvik to which the other rooms connect.

Thresholds are both vital and symbolic, as they connect inside and outside, house and village. Inuit stress the importance of cold and warm porches, with one entrance for summer and another for winter. In cabins, food preparation often happens in a transitional space between the main living area and outside. Cold porches serve to store equipment and food and to carry out traditional activities (skinning, drying), while warm porches serve as a changing room and secured storage area without taking up space from the house.

These in-between spaces are also used to welcome visitors and see family members on their way to a journey, whether near or far. Shared by two houses, they offer a meeting ground where seasonal activities can take place: skinning, preparing, and sharing meat, cutting stone, doing repairs, etc.

Calls to Action

33. Make the pulaarvik a well-connected part of the house

  • Include a large, open, central space at the heart of the home to allow for family gatherings.

  • Ensure that the pulaarvik is connected to other rooms, as well as to the exterior surroundings.

  • Work with generous height and natural light.

34. Maximise spatial connectivity

  • Promote loop circulation, mezzanines, and different floor levels to make the home a more social space.

  • Locate the kitchen and the entrances near the pulaarvik.

35. Design warm and cold porches

  • Include porches that cater to diverse needs (mud room, storage, meat drying, etc.) and provide a thermal transition between outdoors and indoors.

  • Plan for adequate counter space and sink (food preparation, washing up) to complement the kitchen.

36. Provide culturally significant thresholds

  • Include significant transition areas when entering the home for people to feel comfortable when crossing from the collective to the intimate areas.

  • Plan for thresholds that adjust to the evolving needs for intimacy within the family (for youth requiring more privacy, for example).

37. Plan for comfortable and useful furniture

  • Design integrated furniture for residents and visitors to use to organize a convivial space.

  • Provide storage wherever possible, such as underneath benches or in kitchen islands.

  • Think ergonomics (table for sitting on the floor) and user comfort (elders, children, disabilities).

The house is a place where significant cultural activities (both traditional and contemporary) are practiced, as are domestic activities necessary to support the comfortable lifestyle of large families and their visitors. In this project, the Inuit home is viewed as a repository of meaningful objects and practices, purposeful in maintaining values and in fulfilling aspirations in daily life.

The proposed Northern Home displays a well-connected pulaarvik where social and visual interactions are numerous and rich. Varying ceiling heights, places for sitting, views from one room to another, windows and thresholds all ease the transition from the more collective to the more introspective/intimate areas of the house.

This project integrates cultural practices within a contemporary design to highlight and celebrate Inuit know-how and way of life. The importance Inuit give to the objects that bear witness to their lives and stories is thus transposed in the architecture. By showcasing Inuit know-how with and within its very walls, the house effectively becomes a home.

More here

By A. Morin, École d’architecture de l’Université Laval, 2017

Northern Home: Inuit Dwelling as Repository of Cultural Practices

Innovations: Thinking Outside the Box

Housing as Empowerment


Letting the Land In


Northern Home


Modules Made of Containers


Repurposing Containers



Open Access


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