Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2010[2004]) An Examination of the Use of Domestic Space by Inuit Families Living in Arviat, Nunavut, Research Highlight: Socio-economic Series, May 2004: 1-6, CMHC, Ottawa

Keywords: architecture and designArviat (Eskimo Point)spatial activity patterns

Brief research report of a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funded study using ethnographic fieldwork and syntax analysis (a computer-based method for analyzing the spatial layout of houses) to examine the how domestic space is used by Inuit families in Arviat, Nunavut (pop. c. 2000) The research was conducted over two months in the summer of 2002. Forty-seven households volunteered to have their domestic activities observed randomly throughout the day; have floor plans of their houses recorded and mapped; and have walking surveys conducted to observe the moving and stationary activities in different rooms.

The researchers emphasize that life in an Inuit community does not parallel Euro-Canadian life in southern Canada. Inuit daily activities such as hunting, fishing, the upkeep of rifles, fishing nets, snow machines, as well as family practices, entertaining, and visiting habits, define cultural values have been largely disregarded in the design process for Inuit houses. The research explored the effects Euro-Canadian style houses on Inuit domestic life, and the social interactions amongst Inuit family members and their friends.

The findings highlight that Inuit families concentrate a diverse range of activities in a few integrated spaces within the house. This is different to Euro-Canadian families, who use specific rooms for different tasks. Socializing is an important cultural activity for Inuit families, thus having a large space multi-use space for socializing could re-affirm valued family bonds.

The researchers suggest eliminating long central corridors of dining rooms and kitchens could make the house more connected. Kitchens and appliances should be redesigned to accommodate traditional Inuit cooking and food, and in addition larger storage areas would be more appropriate. The report also included suggestions for the use of different building materials for the interior and external of homes, and on how make homes more heat energy efficient. The researchers also have recommendations on the exterior design of Inuit homes, such as having large cold porches in the front.