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Every Northern Village contains or offers loads of different uses and services. However, their large number does not automatically ensure their even distribution. Often, the village center will gather most of the stores, community services and sports installations, while the airport and the waste disposal sites will be located farther from the dwellings. This distribution strategy creates multiple sectors of activity in the larger villages. As a result, many residential sectors are separated and far from any services. A better understanding of the spatial distribution of uses gives the planner a great first look at the village’s reality.

The sketch beside (Figure 1) shows the results of such an analysis for Kangiqsualujjuaq. The research team identified three residential areas (in black) and many activity sectors (delineated white areas). This one drawing makes it quite obvious that if the village center encompasses many services, the other two residential vicinities do not.


Fig. 1. Spatial distribution of village space

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Use and appropriation of space

Planned use and actual use often have different forms. The Inuit might use a space in a completely other manner as would a non-indigenous person or if the same space was in the South. For example, on the map beside (Figure 2), a planner could see that much of the vacant space between and behind houses is either used as a road or as parking space. The area was most probably not planned as or thought to become a shortcut at first, but the local use made it that way. Associating actual practices with space through observation or consultation seems key to propose durable and significant patterns of use.

Fig. 2. Use and appropriation of space by Kangiqsualujjuamiut

State of social housing stock

Spatial distribution of uses


Every Northern community is filled with strength, joy, peace and knowledge. Planners need to ask themselves: What assets hide behind such qualities? Are they culture-based? Are they associated with a place? Are they accessible all-year round or only on certain occasions? A better understanding of the local assets gives the planner the opportunity to put them at the center of the planning project and for the benefit of the local population.

Another aspect of the built environment that must be taken into account is the age and general state of the housing stock, which is almost totally composed of social units in Nunavik. Inevitably, some residential sectors are newer than others. This implies a wide spectrum of renovations needs. A rigorous characterization of existing houses in a sector for (re)development can provide innovative solutions.

In Kangiqsualujjuaq (see Figure 3), the periods of construction vary from a residential area to another. A great deal of the older houses is concentrated in the village center. With that in mind, a planner could put his imagination to the test and figure out strategies to rejuvenate the sector.


Fig. 3. Construction of social housing per year

Ground buildability

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Challenges and opportunities

Every community has to cope with different challenges and opportunities. If opportunities can be reshaped into assets, challenges will take more time and efforts to be turned into strengths.

The research team identified four principal opportunities (Figure 5) and four main challenges (Figure 6) for the village of Kangiqsualujjuaq. These resulted from an analysis of the impacts of climate change and population growth based on a set of variables. Even if this analysis remains incomplete, the results allowed the team to identify the characteristics that were already strong in the village and those that were lacking (see Figure 7 for examples of such characteristics). This step turned out to be of the greatest importance for the rest of the process.


Fig. 4. Building land map

(CEN, 2019)

Fig. 5. Principal opportunities for the village of Kangiqsualujjuaq

Fig. 6. Main challenges for the village of Kangiqsualujjuaq

The Northern bioclimatic regions are often characterized by the (quasi) omnipresence of permafrost, which in the context of climate change translates into considerable challenges in planning and construction alike.

On the one hand, organizations in charge of planning rely on rigorous and in-depth analyses of the permafrost data to figure out the most secure and stable locations for future development. On the other hand, construction companies must use different foundations types than those in the South. Such forethought is essential to ensure the long-term durability of any building in Nunavik. Along with local organizations, and in the face of constraints such as gravel shortages, alternative foundation strategies are developed. Some of these alternatives can be found in a      published by Société d'habitation du Québec in 2018. For an illustrated example of the Cut and Fill approach analyzed by three students through a thesis project, click         . 

Figure 4 shows how much ground stability varies within a relatively small territory. You can also notice how new development areas (in green on the map) have been carefully selected to fit inside more stable areas.

Fig. 7. Analysis of the impacts of climate change and population growth on a set of variables

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