Architecture of the Arctic
March 14, 2006 4:04 PM   Subscribe

A restaurant. A cathedral. A research center. Welcome to the Canadian territory of Nunavut, "where high winds, freezing temperatures, and the difficulty of transporting raw materials pose some interesting architectural constraints."
posted by cloudscratcher (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These are amazing. They all look like portable cabins that you see in construction sites. Does it explain anywhere why they have to be shaped like this?
posted by Acey at 4:15 PM on March 14, 2006

I wish I could see them in the snow. I wonder if they would just blend into the landscape (except for the screaming yellow airport, of course).
posted by Lockjaw at 4:18 PM on March 14, 2006

Did anyone check out the other entries offered during Visionary Architecture Week? Yow!
posted by Lockjaw at 4:21 PM on March 14, 2006

I'm very curious to know how those particular constraints led to those particular designes
posted by Dr. Twist at 4:28 PM on March 14, 2006

Those buildings are amazing. And I really like that airport, it's got this cuddly kid's-toy look to it.
Ah Nunavut!
For us you bear no malice
C'mon and shake your borealis
After Y2K
When the ozone's burned away
I think I'll visit Nunavut for a post-apocalyptic holiday
And all the Inuit say...

posted by pantsrobot at 4:29 PM on March 14, 2006

Here's more pictures of the area as well as the page of the St. Jude parish linked above.
posted by vacapinta at 4:32 PM on March 14, 2006

I'm not sure about the research center, but don't domes stand up pretty well to the weight of falling snow? Too much snow --> snow slides off...

The rounded corners are interesting, I wonder if it has to do with reducing icicles or other buildups of ice.

As for the kiddie toy feel, these buildings feel robust, like you can gnaw on them or kick them around and they won't break.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:34 PM on March 14, 2006

Also flickr photos from a local resident.
posted by vacapinta at 4:38 PM on March 14, 2006

Nunavut matters.
posted by ooga_booga at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2006

I guess igloos are shaped that way for a reason.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:40 PM on March 14, 2006

Oh, yeah! They look much better in the snow. What an interesting place. I think PurplePorpoise must be right: the rounded corners reduce icicles and discourage weighty snow buildup on the roof (which doesn't explain the research center's flat roof, but maybe snow buildup is what they're researching!)
posted by Lockjaw at 4:45 PM on March 14, 2006

Insulation, that's what it's all about. :)
posted by anthill at 4:55 PM on March 14, 2006

Actaully Nunavut doesn't get that much snow, it's to ocold :)
posted by Space Coyote at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2006

I think the funny shapes come from having to build on permafrost . Since the ground isn't stable, the foundations have to be supported on stilts. That, plus heavy use of prefab components make the buildings look all retro-futuristic.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:09 PM on March 14, 2006

A dome has other beneficial qualities in a cold climate:

1. Maximum enclosed space with minimum surface area, to minimize heat loss.
2. Good aerodynamics also reduce heat loss (you don't usually take aerodynamics into effect with immobile structures, but I'd imagine in Nunavut, every bit counts).
posted by adamrice at 5:26 PM on March 14, 2006

Yeah, you definitely want all the R value you can get up there. Current conditions. Conversion calculation for you non-Celsius types.
posted by Zinger at 5:53 PM on March 14, 2006

I'm lovin' all the Canadian content recently! Good post.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:13 PM on March 14, 2006

For some strange reason, I've always been fascinated with northern Canada. I think I will definitely visit Nunavut some day. Will I be bored out of my mind if I do visit?
posted by gyc at 6:32 PM on March 14, 2006

A view of the town and airport from vacapinta's link.
posted by angrybeaver at 6:39 PM on March 14, 2006

Actually, in Nunavut you'll find a research centre, thank you.
Awesome post though!
posted by Count Ziggurat at 6:49 PM on March 14, 2006

Will I be bored out of my mind if I do visit?

Depends on your interests. Here's the official Nunavut tourism site. Bear in mind that Nunavut is but one region of the far north. There's also the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
posted by Zinger at 7:00 PM on March 14, 2006

Possibly the definative song about Nunavut is Nunavut by Three Dead Trolls In a Baggie
posted by blue_beetle at 7:11 PM on March 14, 2006

Any idea what these mystery symbols on the facade of North Mart are?
posted by soviet sleepover at 7:45 PM on March 14, 2006

The Airbus A380 prototype recently had a stay in Iqaluit for cold weather testing. Apparently, "weather did not cooperate". I wonder if that means it was too harsh, or not harsh enough. The airport is a former air force base, and the runway's as long as the town itself.
posted by zsazsa at 8:17 PM on March 14, 2006

soviet sleepover - it's inuktitut.

I was born in Iqaluit, which is where the restaurant and cathedral are located, but moved when I was 2 to Yellowknife. Iqaluit used to be called Frobisher Bay. I sent my dad a link to this though, and he recognized the buildings:

HI Son Yes I recognize and have been in all of them...The restaurant and cathedral are in Iqaluit, and the research centre is in Igloolik.. The cathedral just burned down a month ago..Too bad..It was a really neat building. The restaurant was called a "Pearson" design named after the contractor..

gyc: probably not. Depends on what you like and what you need to enjoy yourself. When I went back and visited when I was about 16 or so, the thing that stuck me most was the absence of trees.
posted by concreteforest at 8:24 PM on March 14, 2006

Someone eventually realised that if you build everything out of Saturn dent-resistant door panels, nothing will break.

The downside, of course, is that you wouldn't really be able to stare longingly out the windows during an especially boring class. Then again, if it's white on the inside it probably doesn't make a difference.

Icicles? I'm not sure that would be too much of a problem. Icicles require relatively warm temperatures.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:18 PM on March 14, 2006

I wonder if they would just blend into the landscape (except for the screaming yellow airport, of course).

You probably don't want your airport blending into the snow too well!
posted by fshgrl at 11:21 PM on March 14, 2006

soviet sleepover> They're an Inuit language, though I don't know which one, and don't read any of them.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 3:47 AM on March 15, 2006

I always waited to hear temps there in Iqaluit reported by CBC Newsworld. It's my own personal tradition.
posted by GoodJob! at 5:56 AM on March 15, 2006


Annual average temperature (*C): -9.8
Annual average temperature (*F): 14.36
Annual average high temperature (*C): 7.7
Annual average high temperature (*F): 45.86
Annual average low temperature (*C): -28
Annual average low temperature (*F): -18.4
Annual precipitation in millimeters: 412
Annual precipitation in inches: 16.22
posted by raedyn at 9:57 AM on March 15, 2006

This is a fascinating place, and I want to go there sometime. I even posted an Ask Me question about how one would get there.

And the language is Inuktitut. It's written in syllabics. CBC-Iqaluit even broadcasts in Inuktitut for a fair part of the day; if you want to listen to it, go to the CBC North page, and click on 'CBC Radio One Iqaluit' under 'Listen Live!' on the right hand side. I remember hearing about the Anglican Cathedral being burned down, also.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:08 PM on March 15, 2006

Wow. Bizarre seeing a picture of North Mart. That's the reason I was up in the north. I ran a bakery/deli at a NorthMart just like the one in the photo, only in Inuvik.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:05 PM on March 15, 2006

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