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Habiter le Nord québécois


Habiter le Nord québécois


Desirable Density

Find Opportunities in Compact Layouts

Zebedee Nungak

Inventing Arctic Town Planning: Commentaries (2016)

"Back in time, Inuit families always lived physically close together."

Many Nunavimmiut aspire to have a large plot around the house to store gear and vehicles, build and repair things, or dry and smoke meat or fish. Large plots can keep a distance from nuisances or difficult neighbours, with possibly less restricted views outside.

As a result, the village footprint often extends and encroaches upon precious land that could be otherwise preserved. As is the case elsewhere on the planet, sprawl is costly for communities: living further away from daily services (coop store, school, work, health services) and family members increases the dependence on vehicles and polluting fossil fuel. The resulting environmental, social, and financial costs are most challenging in light of the urgent housing needs in Nunavik.

What We've Learned

Paths for Change

Finding space for new buildings in the village provides an alternative way of responsibly developing from within. Underutilized plots as well as rock outcrops offer a wealth of possibilities for smart growth through well thought out consolidation.

Soft or gentle densification strategies, such as housing extensions or inserts, offer more space for members of the extended family to grow or age at home. Thoughtfully increasing the density in parts of the village can be done while avoiding overcrowding by applying wise layouts. These ensure sufficient distance between neighbours, smaller footprints, space for activities and storage, as well as far-reaching and meaningful views.

In addition to preserving the land and lowering infrastructure costs, advantages include the optimization of existing pads, a greater proximity to daily services without depending on a vehicle, the addition of innovative housing types to suit evolving needs of individuals and families, and more vibrant neighbourhoods and public spaces that nurture solidarity and a sense of community.

Calls to Action

19. Densify gently by inserting and extending houses

  • Renovate or extend existing dwellings to accommodate family members by mobilizing groups and households that are open to such transformations.

  • Consider multigenerational housing (such as “granny flats”) to enable people to choose their neighbours and to make density more acceptable.

20. Implement residential buildings wisely

  • Minimize the impacts of proximity by adopting siting strategies such as clusters to avoid “face-to-face” situations.

  • Promote positive neighbourhood dynamics and solidarity with shared inside or outside spaces.

21. Encourage smaller building footprints

  • Build smaller housing types on smaller lots to provide alternatives to larger single-family houses (e.g. tiny houses, apartments, multigenerational houses).

  • Create financial incentives for those interested in making this choice.

22. Facilitate access to services by foot

  • Implement new residential buildings that are more compact, closer together, or adjacent, enabling those who don’t have access to a car to live within walking distance of services.

  • Allow small-scale services in residential areas that are further from the center to encourage a mix of uses and opportunities, including employment.

23. Offer “eyes on the street”

  • Locate meeting spaces near housing to ensure their natural supervision by community members within an animated, mixed-use environment.

This project imagines the ingenious “soft” densification of Salluit’s village center. Colorful houses are built without pads on a rocky hill, a site previously overlooked yet strategically located near services.

The homestead’s compact footprint, without streets or pads, also saves on granular material that is already sparse by using alternative foundations (piles and stone walls). The tight-knit cluster is built around a network of wooden walkways that facilitate access to houses and a community workshop, as well as the delivery of services (water, fuel) via concealed utilidors. The lively walkways are protected by harsh winds and encourage walking, even if a common parking area for cars, ATVs, and skidoos is provided.

New housing is arranged in groups of two, three, or four dwellings. The slope provides views of the land and alleviates “face-to-face” situations. Each group shares a common, covered, and naturally lit in-between space, where people can engage in daily activities and enjoy many opportunities for bonding and sharing.

To promote autonomy in construction and a sense of belonging to the land, local resources such as stone and earth are put to use.

Watch video here

By A. Boulanger-Cartier, P.-O. Demeule, M.-C. Gravel, École d’architecture de l’Université Laval, 2016

Colored Mountain Houses: Finding Space for Solidarity Within the Village

Innovations: Thinking Outside the Box

Outside the Box Innovations

Towards a Northern Home

Towards a Northern Home


Let's Do It Together!

Let's Do It Together!


Containers for Porches

Containers for Porches

House Extension

Northern Planning Principles

Northern Planning Principles

Planning Tool

Reinforcing Kuujjuaq’s Centre

Reinforcing Kuujjuaq’s Centre

Community Planning


Open Access

  • Landry, J, St-Jean, L (2019) Imagining Inukjuak’s Future Development. Thesis project, Université Laval. Video presentation.

  • Vachon, G, Rivard, E, Avarello, M, St-Jean, L (2017) Imaginer l’aménagement soutenable des villages inuits du Nunavik Le design pour réfléchir aux possibles. Recherches amérindiennes au Québec 47 (1).

  • Vachon, G, Avarello, M, Landry, J, St-Jean, L (2020) Territorialities and Urbanities Transform: A Scenario-Based Approach to Local Planning and Decision Making in Inukjuak and Salluit, Nunavik. Études Inuit Studies, 44 (1-2): 207-236.


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