Dorte Mandrup wins international competition for long-awaited Inuit Heritage Centre in Canada

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Dorte Mandrup together with Architect of Record Guy Architects, LEES+Associates, Adjeleian Allen Rubeli, EXP, Pageau Morel, Altus Group, and indigenous consultants Kirt Ejesiak and Alexander Flaherty have been announced winner of the international competition to design the Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre in Nunavut, Canada, at the northern edge of the territorial capital Iqaluit. 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 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. 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,” says Founder and Creative Director Dorte Mandrup.


A place to engage and heal
Dorte Mandrup convinced the jury with a beautiful and poetic response, expressing great consideration for the community perspectives on Inuit traditional knowledge and the healing potential for the Inuit Nunavut Heritage Centre. The design of the building is informed by the landscape and the movement of the snow and the wind. Drawing inspiration from the patterns formed in snowdrifts by the prevailing wind, which has long served as a natural wayfinding system for Inuit, the building carves into the rocky hillside overlooking Iqaluit and follows the curves and longitudinal features of the landscape.

The Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre will be built in Iqaluit to honour the Canadian Governments commitment to the Nunavut Agreement which identified an urgent need for a territorial heritage facility. The centre will encourage the growth of local heritage and foster a network of cultural centres across the territory where the Inuit can reconnect with their heritage and find a stronger sense of identity and culture.

“We have waited many years for this opportunity and have never been this close to realising our dream. The need for a territorial heritage centre was first identified in the Nunavut Agreement and thirty years later we are still without a place of our own. As a result, many items made by our ancestors are stored in southern facilities. With few opportunities for Inuit to engage with these items, we continue to be disconnected from this important part of our cultural heritage. But there is a growing momentum for an Inuit-owned and operated facility,” says William Beveridge, Executive Director for the Inuit Heritage Trust (IHT).


Taking advantage of the natural landscape
What the building takes away from the land, it gives back with a generous roof that merges with landscape and offers a new natural outdoor gathering place with unhindered views over the vast tundra. The roof will be covered in rock and turf, dissolving the lines between the building and the terrain while ensuring a continuous movement across the landscape. By taking advantage of the protective rock, the building structure forms a shelter that naturally embrace the sensitive collections and exhibits beneath.  An open slit in the hill creates a daylit space for the different activities and gatherings taking place in the centre.

The Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre will provide a venue for several activities and serve as a gathering place for the preservation and celebration of Inuit culture and heritage. Apart from the exhibition spaces the centre will house a café, workshop area, conservations lab, shop, daycare centre, hostel, and offices and connect to a large outdoor area that offer spaces for traditional practices such as carving, kayak building, tool making, and berry picking.

Read more about Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre here.

Visualisations: MIR