Following an international competition, Copenhagen studio Dorte Mandrup Architecture will design a new Inuit Heritage Centre in northern Canada’s Nunavut territory located at the northern edge of Iqaluit, the territory’s capital. The project’s goal is to “support healing, cultural reconciliation and the continuity of Inuit practices, traditions, and values,” a press release by Dorte Mandrup stated. “Once complete, the centre will promote greater awareness of Inuit culture and support cultural healing and reconciliation between Inuit and non-Inuit by offering a place where Inuit can reconnect with their collective past through objects, stories, and activities.”
The forthcoming $140 million Inuit Heritage Centre will provide about 60,000 square feet of space for public programming and showing Indigenous cultural heritage. It will house “thousands of artifacts” from Inuit culture, many of which have been stored in various locations throughout Canada for decades. When the Inuit Heritage Centre is complete, these precious objects will have a permanent home in a centralized location; an important step towards rectifying the “impact of colonisation” and “forced relocation, rupture of families, undermining of culture,” Dorte Mandrup stated.
The design team consists of a multidisciplinary group of world renowned practitioners and local experts with a deep knowledge of the context. Dorte Mandrup paired up with local firm Guy Architects as their architect of record, alongside LEES+Associates, Adjeleian Allen Rubeli, EXP, Pageau Morel, Altus Group. Kirt Ejesiak and Alexander Flaherty will be the project’s indigenous consultants.
Renderings of the proposed design show a low-lying building with a curvaceous form that appears to slope into the surrounding landscape. Large spans of glass will front the building, while inside the interiors feature wood-slatted ceilings and walls that pull from the materiality and form of the objects and artifacts on display.
“The Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre is an extraordinary project that we are very proud and humbled to have been selected to be part of. Working within this context requires both extreme sensitivity and consideration of landscape and its cultural significance,” said founder and creative director Dorte Mandrup. “The community has been working tirelessly for a long time to establish a place for Inuit to collect precious heritage and share unique, specialised knowledge that remains imperative for future generations and is in severe risk of vanishing. We are looking very much forward to listen, learn, and be the link between thought and form.”
The Danish firm beat out proposals by fifteen other offices including Toronto-based Lateral Office Architects and Teeple Architects, among others. Participants had six weeks to submit proposals in the competition led by The Inuit Heritage Trust (IHT) with support from Nanavut Tunngavik Inc (NTI), Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KitIA), and Kivalliq Inuit Association. The competition’s completion this July was something thirty years in the making after an “urgent need for heritage facilities was identified in the 1993 Nanavut Agreement,” according to Dorte Mandrup.
The project is slated for completion in 2027.