Arctic Adaptations was an ideas competition amongst Canadian architecture students as part of Lateral Office's winning proposal for the Canadian Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale of Architecture. The project and competition proposal were a collaboration between myself, Thomas Villiger, Adrienne Gerrits, and Mathew Jones.

Competition Brief 

Arctic Adaptations



The Migrating Archive Project examines how architecture can engage the arts in Nunavut at both the territorial and building scale.  While there exists a thriving arts community, vast distances separate members, and there are few dedicated spaces for performance and display.  Through the development of a territorial network of light-weight capsules, physical and digital works of art are transported and shared between communities.  Capsules take advantage of existing transportation networks of aircraft, ship, and snowmobile, and stop at arts centres, where their contents are catalogued in a digital database and displayed for visitors.  Arts centres also provide space for performances, collaborative workshops for artists, and retail space for visitors; they are places of education and exchange.  The proposal of a new building typology establishes a new visibility of the arts in Nunavut, and a system capable of accommodating future growth.


While 'archive' refers to text-based, documents and records, it takes on a new meaning in a traditionally oral culture.  Handicraft objects are much more than works of art to be viewed - they are narratives, histories, records in themselves.  And while archives typically accumulate documents for permanent storage, MAP is an ever-moving entity, omnipresent, defined by movement.  It reenacts travel, which was central to traditional Inuit culture, and, thereby, expanding the scale of the archive from building to territory.  


The Migrating Archive Project is an architectural initiative that addresses the arts in Nunavut.  We propose a network of cultural exchange across the territory, in which works of art are displayed and shared between communities.  Sensitive to the possibility of centralization and thus exclusion that would likely result from the introduction of a single building for the arts, our proposal provides a bi-level strategy:  

Below are our two board 24x26 competition submission. We were awarded a second place finish in the competition.

Building Typology [Building Scale]

Arts centres will be organized along a porous structural spine, through which visitors can migrate to engage the various building programmes.  This scheme acts as an easily-adopted strategy to making more visible and mobilized the arts in Nunavut.  Each arts centre is composed of three main components:

The gallery is intended to showcase the artistic objects and acts of Nunavut.  Strategically located in specific communities, its contents are to be visible and available to visitors of the centre.  It serves as a temporary stop for the arts in Nunavut - a place where cultural productions can be discovered, experienced, and explored.  Centralization of these productions is beneficial for sharing among Inuit artists and public, a sense of Inuit permanence in the north, and a comprehensive experience for visitors.     

A central structural spine serves as gallery space for the capsules [ art is displayed in their containers] and attachment point for program.  Made of identical steel members, this expandable arrangement is a transferable typology for implementation in other communities across the territory.  Digital access points and multimedia rooms flank the spine.

The double-height performance space is flexible enough to accommodate several activities, including musical performances, circus acts, video projections, and art installations.  Smaller rehearsal/instructional rooms and a recording studio would also be included.

The production space is a collection of flexible workshops/studios that allow for interaction and collaboration between artists.  Given the importance of tacit learning in traditional Inuit culture, it is important that these spaces are visible to and inhabitable by visitors of the centre.  This encourages fluidity between production, education, and sales.  

The building is composed of various zones, which contribute to a thermal gradient, accommodating various activities and meeting user requirements in an efficient way.

- system / connections / materials
- possible configurations

As such, it requires a certain level of acoustic separation, and the presence of large groups of people demands significant ventilation systems.  A black box theatre, including a large projection screen, may be sufficient.

We envision that MAP would encourage cultural exchange between other physical and digital places of the world.

- system of exchange / frequency
- materials / size / configurations

Capsule Network [Territorial Scale]

Capsules serve as cultural vessels for both physical art objects and digital data.  Contents might include traditional Inuit crafts, new media, film/video, and recorded performance, and are are carefully secured within flexible compartments.  Their dimensions allow for easy handling by one or two people, and they are easily stacked, stood on end, and opened.  The route and frequency of capsule circulation is determined by individual communities/artists, and as the capsules travel across the territory and beyond, they map a network of trails between dispersed communities.  Each time a capsule arrives in a new community, it provides a temporary venue to engage residents in an intimate view of artists' work.  We believe in the importance of physical presence and wish to balance the intangibility of the digital.