When Montreal-based Blouin Orzes architectes was tapped to design a new Inuit cultural center for the arctic region of Nunavik, they knew that the project would be no easy task. Nunavik, which occupies the northern third of the province of Quebec, not only has a harsh climate, but also faces incredibly high construction costs due to its remote location and lack of materials, which can only be shipped during the brief summer season. Despite these challenges, Blouin Orzes architectes has the advantage of experience—the firm has worked in Nunavik since 2000 and tapped into its intimate understanding of the culture and people to design a Cultural Center that celebrates Inuit traditions in a striking, iceberg-inspired building.
Located in the Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik near the mouth of the Great Whale River, the new 680-square-meter Cultural Center was created in close collaboration with the community. Drawing inspiration from the shape of icebergs, the architects designed the building—which spans 1 1/2 stories—with a strong geometric shape. The facility is sheathed in steel panels and yellow-painted timber planks that reference the sand dune on which the village sits.
“Despite living in extremely remote communities, Nunavik’s Inuit do not hesitate travelling long distances by plane to visit each other or to attend an important cultural event,” wrote Blouin Orzes architectes in a statement. “Since the fall of 2017, the 10,000 people living in one of Nunavik’s 14 communities can now gather in a new Cultural Centre located in the Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik, north of the 55th parallel. Originally planned as a showcase for the highly popular Inuit Games, the facility lends itself to all sorts of events, from storytelling, singing and dancing to concerts, films, banquets and other types of gatherings.”
The facility is accessed via a concrete ramp that extends to form an outdoor gathering space. A deep south-facing overhang that echoes the portico of the nearby church, the oldest structure in the village, protects the entrance. Beyond the lobby is the main hall, which accommodates up to 300 people and is equipped with state-of-the art AV equipment.
Aerial image by Heiko Wittenborn, all others by Blouin Orzes architectes