Urban Inuvik

The urbanity of this Arctic town is spacious, open and utilitarian.  The people who live there, some of the most welcoming I’ve come across.

Inuvik is located 200 kms north of the Arctic Circle and 100km from the Arctic Ocean and sit’s along the line where the Boreal Forests give way and the Tundra takes over.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

The Boreal Forest touches the edge of the town.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Older row housing stock and the Boreal edge beyond.


There are only two ways to arrive at Inuvik, by air, or a long drive up the Dempster Highway.  If you drive the 671km gravel road, make sure you have numerous spare tires – there is only one place for repairs half way to Inuvik.

Everything there comes in via one of these routes, and that includes building materials!

Buildings need to be practical, simply built and set on piles so as to not damage the fragile permafrost.

The suburban structure of the town is disparate, yet logically ordered in part due to the two main housing typologies that developed during the occupation of a National Defence base during the 50’s and the 60’s

The first, known as the 512’s for the officers – a 16ft x 32ft Cabin with a floor plate of 512 square feet.  The second, row housing for the general corps and later on oil and gas workers.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

512’s on mass.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

More recently constructed and vibrant row housing

These two building typologies occur in different areas of the town, perhaps– giving credence to the military hierarchy in which they were constructed.  The Canadian Army closed its base of 260 odd personal in 1985.

A spider-like network of above ground Utilidors’ provides all the services including a high temperature heating system to the entire town.  This heating system runs alongside the water supply and sewerage lines – for obvious reasons.  Intriguing little structures.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Utilidors and the Utilidettes supplying service to the buildings.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

The veins of the town – the utilidors

The population of Inuvik is currently about 3000 people, this swells and decreases with the oil and gas prospecting.  What will the future hold for Inuvik, I’m not sure, but I intend to return to explore the town and its surrounding landscape in more detail.

A very interesting town and a tight-nit community needs quality facilities. A new school two years ago and just completed a new child care facility which we were in town to photography.

Inuvik Children's First Centre - Kobayashi + Zedda Architects

The old school in the foreground.
Photograph taken from on top of a Utilidor!

Inuvik Children'sFirst Centre

The Inuvik Children’s First Centre sweeping around with a North Facing Courtyard.

Inuvik Children's First Centre - Kobayashi + Zedda Architects

Simple construction methods and hard-wearing materials are a necessity up here.

Inuvik Children's First Centre - Kobayashi + Zedda Architects

Play time at the Children’s First Center.

Inuvik Children's First Centre - Kobayashi + Zedda Architects

Lights in the sky.