October 24, 2014


June 07, 2014 - November 23, 2014

July 06, 2014 - November 23, 2014
Curated by Canadian studio Lateral Office, the Arctic Adaptions exhibition explores the transition "from igloos to internet" in Nunavut, which has only been part of Canada for 15 years and remains one of the least densely populated regions in the world.
Using interactive models and photography, the curators set out to question whether architecture and infrastructure – largely used as tools of colonisation over the last 100 years – can also help to shape these Arctic settlements into modern cities without sacrificing their unique identity.
"The exhibition celebrates the remarkable resilience, adaptability and innovative nature of Inuit culture, one able to bridge tradition and modernity in remarkable ways," said Lateral Office principal Lola Sheppard.
At the entrance to the pavilion, an array of soapstone sculptures carved by Inuit artists present a selection of important modernist buildings completed by in Nunavut in the last century.
These are accompanied by a series of wall-mounted bas-relief models repressing each of Nunavut's 25 communities, from hamlet of just 120 people to regional capital Iqaluit, home to around 7,000 people.
Narrow slots in the walls look through to photographs of these places, while 15 topographical models are brought to life with lighting to present proposals for the future in housing, health, education, arts and recreation.
Arctic Adaptions was one of three exhibitions to receive a special mention at the biennale awards ceremony, behind the Silver Lion-winning Chilean Pavilion and Golden Lion recipient Korea.
"This award is important because it highlights the key role that architecture has played and could play in the future, in a region where architecture and urbanism have been largely overlooked, except as tools of colonisation," said Sheppard.
Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15 surveys a recent architectural past, a current urbanising present, and a projective near future of adaptive architecture in Nunavut. Nunavut, which means "our land", is Canada's newest, largest, and most northerly territory. It separated from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999 following a hard-fought land claims agreement established in 1993. These communities, located above the tree line and with no roads connecting them, range in population from 120 in the smallest hamlet to 7,000 in Nunavut's capital city of Iqaluit. The climate, geography, and people of Nunavut, as well as the wider Canadian Arctic, challenge the viability of a universalising modernity.
Following the age of polar exploration in the 20th century, modern architecture encroached on this remote and vast region of Canada in the name of sovereignty, aboriginal affairs management, or trade, among others. However, the indigenous Inuit people have inhabited the Canadian Arctic for millennia as a traditionally semi-nomadic people. Inuit relations with Canada have been fraught with acts of neglect, resistance, and negotiation. Throughout the last 100 years, architecture, infrastructure, and settlements have been the tools for these acts. People have been re-located; trading posts, military infrastructure, and research stations have been built; and small settlements are now emerging as Arctic cities. Some have described this rapid confrontation with modernity as a transition "from igloos to internet" compressed into forty years. This abruptness has revealed powerful traits among its people – adaptation and resilience qualities which modern architecture has often lacked.
Few places exemplify the ability to adapt in the face of modernity better than Nunavut. Coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the territory, which changed Canada's map, Arctic Adaptations explores modernism's legacy within the contextual particularities of the North. The exhibition documents architectural history in this remarkable but relatively unknown region of Canada, describes the contemporary realities of life in its communities, and examines a projected role for architecture moving forward. It argues that modern Inuit cultures continue to evolve and merge the traditional and the contemporary in unique and innovative ways, and questions whether architecture, which has largely failed this region – both technically and socially – can be equally innovative and adaptive.
As Nunavut celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2014, Arctic Adaptations simultaneously reflects on this rapid modernisation and presents innovative architecture proposals by five design teams. Each team is made up of a Canadian school of architecture, a Canadian architecture office with extensive northern experience, and a Nunavut-based organisation. Each team's proposal examines one theme – housing, health, education, arts, or recreation – and is rooted in Nunavut's distinct land, climate and culture. They reflect local traditions of migration, mobility and seasonality and respond to regional as well as local realities, including climate change, economic transformations, and a young and rapidly growing population.
Arctic Adaptations includes animated architectural models of each proposal. Each of Nunavut's 25 communities are represented with a topographic model and photograph. Specially commissioned soapstone carvings document important modernist buildings in Nunavut from the past 100 years.
Arctic Adaptations responds directly to the theme of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition: Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014. Modernity is often fearful of the specificities of place and the premise of 'the local'. Yet Nunavut – a place with little to no daylight in certain seasons, temperatures averaging below freezing, no roads between communities, and a people that live out on the land – seems to resist modernism's universalising tendency. This unique exhibition seeks to reveal acts of architectural resistance and identify an unrecognised modern Canadian North. Proposals focus on the fundamentals of human habitation in the North and offer ideas of how architectural design can enhance daily life.

Lateral Office, founded in 2003 by Mason White and Lola Sheppard, is an experimental design practice that operates at the intersection of architecture,landscape, and urbanism. The studio describes its practice process as a commitment to “design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment,” engaging in the “wider context and climate of a project– social, ecological, or political.” LATERAL OFFICE is committed to an architecture that responds directly to the demands of the 21st century - and the subsequent new typologies made possible by an architecture that brazenly confronts today. Recent work and research focuses on powerful design relationships between public realm, infrastructure, and the environment.
Lateral Office's work has been exhibited in numerous venues across the United States and Canada, as well as Germany, Iceland, England, and the Faroe Islands. They have lectured extensively across the USA and Canada, as well as Norway, Germany, England, Belgium, and Colombia. And have been invited as external guest critics at several institutions including: Harvard GSD, Yale University, Columbia University, UCLA, UBC, McGill University, among many others. Clients and collaborators have included Memphis, Reykjavik, Toronto, Metis Garden, Harbourfront Centre, Culture and Heritage Nunavut, Holcim Foundation, among others. Lateral Office have been recognized with several awards and merits including: the 2012 Arctic Inspiration Prize; the 2011 Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction Gold Award; the 2011 Emerging Voices award from the Architectural League of New York; the 2010 Canada Council for the Arts Professional Prix de Rome. The firm was selected to represent Canada with Arctic Adaptations at the 2014 Venice Biennale in Architecture, where they received Special Mention - a first for Canada at the Architecture Biennale.
The Canada Council for the Arts jury has described the firm:
"Lateral Office shines in their ability to engage in a conversation that moves across architecture, landscape design and through all scales of intervention, including urbanism, regional and even national infrastructure planning. The issues they address remained outside of the architectural imagination for too long."
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has described the firm:
Their work is "contributing to larger societal concerns, going well beyond the bounds of traditional architectural practice." Lateral Office are "refreshingly curious and exploratory, and the firm’s work on cold climate design and food networks is important and ground-breaking."
Lateral Office are co-authors of Pamphlet Architecture: Coupling / Strategies for Infrastructural Opportunism published by Princeton Architectural Press; and authors of the forthcoming Many Norths published by Actar. Additionally, their work has been featured in Newsweek, Globe & Mail, Architectural Record,Canadian Architect, Fast Company, and numerous other journals, magazines, and blogs.