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Nunavut project heading to Venice Biennale in Architecture

March 26, 2013

A pair of designers from the young territory of Nunavut has earned the right to represent Canada at the 14th Venice Biennale in Architecture. Lateral Office, a Toronto-based design firm headed by Lola Sheppard and Mason White, was selected to represent the Great White North from a crop of 12 of the country's top architecture practices by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The project, called Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15, is set to reveal a different side of life in the young region.

First separated from the Northwest Territory in 1999, the territory of Nunavut is the newest territory in the country, and Lateral Office is hoping their exhibition will help put the region on the map. This relative youth coincides with the central theme of the program, which is a return to the basics.

Speaking to the Globe and Mail, White described the theme as "a pretty powerful one for us since we're dealing with such a new territory, a new government and such a youthful population."

A large part of the region's architecture can be accredited to the region's relationship with the south, claims Sheppard.

"There has been this very long history of importing southern models of education, languages, food and architecture to the north," she told the news provider. "Part of what we've been interested in looking at is where, precisely, modern, maybe southern knowledge can meet and exchange with northern knowledge and form new modes of operating, particularly in architecture."

As part of the project, the design firm will recreate the Canadian pavilion at the Biennale, a relatively humble structure that past presenters have dubbed a "frustration," according to the news provider. First constructed in 1958, the pavilion was designed in the form of a nautilus shell. Lateral Office hopes to rearrange the structure to be more spacious and ponderous, creating what White called an "ice-floe landscape" that creates "a sense of coolness, atmospherically speaking, and the vastness of the actual landscape."

While architecture is the main focus of the event, the Biennale will actually highlight five elements of life in the arctic region. Besides architecture, the program will also highlight northern health, recreation, housing, education and arts. The presentation for each will be handled by a single design team selected by White and Sheppard.

The Biennale will be curated by Rem Koolhaas, a celebrated international architect, and is expected to feature designers from around the world. Global exhibitions such as this are great stories to share with family and friends abroad, as such it could be wise for travelers heading to the Biennale to invest in calling cards to Canada to stay connected.

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