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Why this website? It's design thinking !

Climatic changes in the North and related issues are not just about melting glaciers and hungry polar bears!  It's a matter of human rights, living environments, cultural practices, traditional knowledge, food security, collective values, etc.


In order for Inuit northern villages to face current and future challenges, a reflection on their adaptability, resilience and cultural relevance must be initiated. This website gathers precedents, data and propositions resulting from an iterative thinking process to discuss coastal, urban and energy challenges.

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Figure 1. Salluit. Michael Cameron, n.d.



What challenges are perceptible in the North?

Northern villages are facing several challenges that will worsen if the current trend continues. These include the effects of climate change and other issues induced by human development of the territory (Figure 2).

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Figure 2.  Major challenges perceptible in the North. Leboeuf-Soucy, Messier, Tessier, 2022

Shores, Housing & Energy

Planning issues in Nunavik

Coastal issues

Sea ice (a fundamental protection element for northern coasts) has an effect on the sensitivity of shorelines and infrastructures. Indeed, sea ice offers a remarkable control on the behavior of waves by constraining their action [15, 16].


However, the decrease of its extent and duration due to global warming no longer exerts as much control over seasonal fetches, the areas where waves are generated by wind. This causes waves reaching the coast to become larger and more ferocious [6, 8], increasing the risk of coastal flooding and erosion [1, 9, 14].


Being primarily shoreline, the infrastructures of northern communities are more vulnerable to these issues (e.g. Salluit - Figure 3). Residences, commercial buildings, and institutions have been erected along the waterfront, an area vulnerable to ocean hazards; alongside with subsistence infrastructure, such as small wooden sheds or repurposed shipping containers, which are typically spread out in abundance along the beach crest [5].

Urban planning issues

Villages are currently facing significant sprawl of the built environment (e.g. Kangirsuk - Figure 4). Communities continue to expand due to population growth and hilly terrain that impedes infill construction.


The result is pollution and land loss challenges due to the extent of tanker trucking in new developments and the degradation of the landscape by gravel pads used as foundations for infrastructure and housing. Transportation needs are also significant, as residents are increasingly distant from services. The resulting impacts are vast: degradation of the quality of the environment, animal migrations, transformation of the territory, etc.

Energy issues

Urbanization forms are close-knit to energy consumption. For example, rectilinear organizational logic required to transport fuel oil from residence to residence. Currently, nine of the fourteen power plants in Nunavik (including those in Kangiqsualujjuaq - Figure 5) are at risk of running out of power by 2025-2026 due to population growth. Since the establishment of self-sufficient grids in 1959, the villages of Nunavik have depended on hydrocarbons as their main source of electricity and heat. The increase in population puts pressure on the power plant located at the outskirts of the village, forcing it to increase its electrical production capacity [12].


However, air pollution and environmental impacts related to the transportation operation and risks of fuel spills are of increasing concern to the Inuit. In addition, they are faced with the uncertainties related to the cost of fossil fuels, the availability of which is likely to decrease [7].

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Figure 3. Summary of planning challenges and opportunities for Salluit.

Leboeuf-Soucy, Messier, Tessier, 2022

The intensification and increased frequency of storm surges may damage some infrastructure in Salluit for the near future due its geomorphic configuration [3]. For example, the first row of houses along the shoreline, the mouth of Kuuguluk Creek, and the road leading to the harbour are at risk of flooding. The village of Salluit is not very high above the water level and is built on sandy soil, which increases its sensitivity to erosion [4]. The more frequent increase water levels due to storm surges could also increase the risk of summer erosion [10].

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Figure 4. Summary of planning challenges and opportunities for Kangirsuk.

Leboeuf-Soucy, Messier, Tessier, 2022

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Figure 5. Summary of planning challenges and opportunities for Kangiqsualujjuaq.

Leboeuf-Soucy, Messier, Tessier, 2022



Third space and counter-mapping to see things differently


Figure 6. Third space according to Babbha [6]. Leboeuf-Soucy, Messier, Tessier, 2022

The notion of the third space [2] is a relevant avenue for creating culturally appropriate places that are consistent with current realities. It begins with the idea of hybridization. As an example, during the pre-colonial period, the Quebecois and Inuit identities, are distinct. During colonization and further contact, elements of one culture permeate the other, whether it be stereotypes, architectural forms or technologies. [6]. During the postcolonial period, once the two cultures co-exist, there remains a space in-between that is called the third space (Figure 6). This is a philosophical space of liminality, a universe of reflection. The third space is presumably where Inuit communities of Nunavik decide what cultural elements to restore or borrow in order to achieve their true identity.

Thinking along the lines of the third space also refers to "trialectics" [13] which challenges knowledge base on binary construct. In other words, the logic of "this OR that" is transformed into "these two elements AND another" (Figure 7). Hybridization and trialectics are useful in translating "third space" into physical space. More preisely, the hybridization of non-indigenous adaptive approaches with Inuit values, combined with appropriate technologies, together form a trialectic way of seeing things. Design projects for Salluit, Kangirsuk and Kangiqsualujjuaq are opportunities to "test" a third space approach to orient three types of strategies : mutualization, autonomy and optimization.


Third space 

What is third space? A space to think!

Figure 7.  Third space applied to the adaptation of northern villages. Leboeuf-Soucy, Messier, Tessier, 2022


What can we learn from Indigenous mapping ?

Land use and zoning plans have certain limitations. They are difficult to interpret, they do not illustrate the environment's qualities, and therefore do not help residents to "project themselves" in the future. Thus, illustrating ideas and intentions with modes of representation inspired by counter-mapping, a form of indigenous cartography, seems relevant. Counter-mapping is an alternative to conventional post-colonial cartography, a political tool frequently used by Westerners to illustrate territorial power. Counter-mapping has been used by Indigenous peoples to reclaim their territory during territorial negotiations for self-determination. Indigenous people also use it to illustrate their worldview and their understanding of the territory they inhabit through the representation of significant places and memories.

Exploring "mixed" modes of representation helps create a "meeting point" for discussion through a graphic vocabulary inspired by both non-indigenous and Indigenous cartography. It allows to explicitly address the cultural adaptation of the built environment by putting the Inuit living environment into images. This type of representation also promotes the concept of a third space through the hybridization of non-indigenous and Indigenous modes of representation.


Figure 8.  Aboriginal mapping based on counter-mapping. Our land - Ronnie Cachini, Ho'n A:wan Dehwa:we, 2006


Figure 9.  Inuit artwork. The History of Inuit Dwelling - Alec Gordon, 2006



  1. Barnhart, Katherine R., Robert S. Anderson, Irina Overeem, Cameron Wobus, Gary D. Clow, et Frank E. Urban. 2014. «Modeling Erosion of Ice-Rich Permafrost Bluffs along the Alaskan Beaufort Sea Coast». Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 119 (5): 1155-79.   

  2. Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The location of culture. London ; New York: Routledge.

  3. Boisson, Antoine. 2019. « Caractérisation et modèles d’évolution des environnements côtiers du Nunavik, Québec, Canada ».

  4. Carbonneau, A.-S., L’Hérault, E., Aubé-Michaud, S., Taillefer, M., Ducharme, M.-A.,Pelletier, M., & Allard, M. (2015). « Production de cartes des caractéristiques du pergélisol afin de guider le développement de l’environnement bâti pour huit communautés du Nunavik ». Rapport final. Québec, Centre d’études nordiques, Université Laval. 127 pages.

  5. Hatcher, Scott V., et Donald L. Forbes. 2015. « Exposure to Coastal Hazards in a Rapidly Expanding Northern Urban Centre, Iqaluit, Nunavut ». ARCTIC 68 (4): 453-471-453‑71.

  6. Hernández, Felipe. 2010. Bhabha for Architects. Adam Sharr. Thinkers for Architects 04. abingdon, Royaume-Uni: Routledge.

  7. Kativik Regional Government, Makivik Corporation. 2010. Plan Nunavik. Second edition. Westmount: Avataq Cultural Institute.

  8. Lintern, G., Robie Macdonald, Steven Solomon, et Hunter Jakes. 2013. «Beaufort Sea storm and resuspension modeling». Journal of Marine Systems in press (novembre).

  9. Manson, Gavin K., et Steven M. Solomon. 2007. « Past and future forcing of Beaufort Sea coastal change ». Atmosphere-Ocean 45 (2): 107-22.

  10. Ouranos. 2020. « Knowledge Synthesis : Impact of Climate Change on Nunavik’s Marine and Coastal Environment ».

  11. Overeem, Irina, Robert S. Anderson, Cameron W. Wobus, Gary D. Clow, Frank E. Urban, et Nora Matell. 2011. « Sea Ice Loss Enhances Wave Action at the Arctic Coast ». Geophysical Research Letters 38 (17).

  12. Paquet, Antoine. 2021. « La transition énergétique nordique vue du Nunavik : Vers une intégration des Inuit et de leurs intérêts dans le processus de production énergétique ». Université Laval. jspui/bitstream/20.500.11794/71852/1/37598.pdf.

  13. Soja, Edward W. 1996. Thirdspace: journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell.

  14. Solomon, S. M., D. L. Forbes, et Brian Kierstead. 1994. « Coastal Impacts of Climate Change : Beaufort Sea Erosion Study ». 2890. Ottawa, ON: Commission géologique du Canada.

  15. Squire, V.A. 2007. « Of Ocean Waves and Sea-Ice Revisited ». Cold Regions Science and Technology 49 (2): 110-33.

  16. Wadhams, Peter, Vernon A. Squire, Dougal J. Goodman, Andrew M. Cowan, et Stuart C. Moore. 1988. « The Attenuation Rates of Ocean Waves in the Marginal Ice Zone ». Journal of Geophysical Research 93 (C6): 6799.

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