Canada’s Arctic Urbanism Spotlighted in 2014 Venice Biennale

The Canada Council for the Arts and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) announced that “Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15” has been selected through a national juried competition to represent Canada at the 2014 Venice Biennale in Architecture. The exhibition will be organized and curated by award-winning collaborative team, Lateral Office, of Toronto.

As Nunavut celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2014, “Arctic Adaptations” will present innovative architecture proposals tailored to Nunavut’s distinct landscape, climate, and culture, and reflect local traditions of mobility.

“This is the first time that we are sending an exhibition about Canada’s North to the Venice Biennale in Architecture,” said Robert Sirman, director and CEO of the Canada Council. “Given the rise in national and international interest in the Arctic, this is a timely exhibition. It will bring attention and insight to the unique challenges and opportunities that Nunavut is facing, and the possibility for architecture to positively impact its future.”

Five design teams will work in collaboration with five Nunavut-based organizations. Each team will be made up of a Canadian school of architecture and a Canadian architecture office with extensive experience working in the North. They will create proposals that respond to regional as well as local realities, including climate change, resource extraction, and a young and rapidly growing population. A proposal will be developed on each of the five following themes: health, education, housing, recreation, and the arts. A “broadly accessible” publication will accompany the exhibition, which will be followed by an extensive Canadian tour when it returns from Venice.

“Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15” was chosen by an independent peer assessment committee selected by the Canada Council for the Arts, which was comprised of Amale Andraos (Principal, WorkAC, New York, USA), Elisabetta Terragni (Principal, Terragni Architetti, Como, Italy), and Charles Walker (Head of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, UK).

Lateral Office was founded in 2003 by Lola Sheppard and Mason White as an experimental design practice. It is dedicated to architecture that poses questions and responds to the wider context and climate of a project, whether social, ecological, or political. The architecture firm has been pursuing research and design work on the role of architecture in the Arctic for the past five years. Lateral Office has been recognized with numerous awards for their work in the Arctic, including a Progressive Architecture Award (2013), the inaugural Arctic Inspiration Prize (2012), the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction Gold Award for North America (2012), an Emerging Voices award from the Architectural League of New York (2011), and the $50,000 Canada Council for the Arts’ Professional Prix de Rome (2010).

Photo: Lateral Office (l to r): Mason White, Lola Sheppard, Matthew Spremulli. Photo by Bob Gundu, 2013

This article was originally featured in ARTINFO Canada.

- Sky Goodden