Recent recipient of the 2011 Holcim Gold Award for the North American region, Lateral Office’s Arctic Food Network is a series of strategically distributed shelters addressing food security, biological and wildlife species management, and provides a safe navigation system across Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada.
Architect: Lateral Office Location: Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada Collaborators: InfraNet Lab, Dr. Claudio Aporta Advisor: Nunavut Department of Culture, Language, Elders, and Youth Project Team: Mason White, Lola Sheppard, Nikole Bouchard, Fionn Byrne Start of Construction: May 2012 Images: Lateral Office
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Encircling the Foxe Basin, Baffin Island is inhabited by 30,000 Nunavummiut, scattered across thirteen disconnected communities. A challenging generation gap continues to expand as nearly sixty percent of the population is under the age of 25. The Inuit community suffers from a lack of connection between the dispersed communities and a dependence on expensive processed food imports from the south.
The Arctic Food Network (AFN) uses pre-existing snowmobile trails to create a “regional network of arctic farms, freezers, fishing cabins and camp hubs.” This provides a secure food and travel network that strengthens cultural exchange between Inuit communities and offers a foundation for a sustainable, independent economy.
The project is led by Mason White and Lola Sheppard. Cross-disciplinary research of ecology, anthropology, architecture, and material science led to collaboration with anthropologist Claudio Aporta at Carleton University. Nearly ten years in the making, Dr. Aporta conducted field studies on Inuit trails and way-finding in the Northern region.
“Synthesizing our regional study on mobility, food security, and health in this region led to the pursuit of a network of small structures that acknowledge the Inuit tradition of temporary enclosure and migratory existence.”
The AFN is network comprised of “sheds, meshes, and posts” that uniquely integrate elements of architecture, landscape, and infrastructure. The network provides regional agriculture, seasonal camps, data transmission centers, and ecological management stations. Hubs are distributed no further than a safe days travel apart, at 160km intervals. Each uniquely responds to the local ecosystem and proximity to communities while utilizing abundant local materials of rock aggregate and snow.
Land sites, water/ice sites, and coastal sites are the three hub types that occupy the varied land conditions. Each offer local harvestable food products and serves a unique role of either a camp, ecology center, or food storage facility, depending on its function within the network
New technologies merge with traditional practices, providing the necessary support for the 21st-century economy. Smoke stacks simultaneously smoke game meat while providing infrastructure for internet, cell, and satellite devices that are powered by solar cells and battery storage.
The Holcim awards jury described the AFN as a “bridge between the traditions of the Intuit and the expectations of the young generation thereby providing an opportunity to create an improved future.”
Lateral Office continues the development of the project through intensive community consultations, determining more specific sites and programs, while developing the photo-voltaic surface of the structures.
Reference: Lateral Office, Holcim Foundation