Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery

Iqaluit, Nunavut

Photo Credits: LEES + Associates

 

CASE STUDY

Initial research by: Desiree Theriault

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2017

 

 

Project: Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery

Type of Urban StrategyIndigenous

Type of ProjectIndigenous Resurgence

LocationIqaluit, Nunavut

Date Designed/Planned: 2013

Construction Completed2014

DesignerLEES + Associates

 

 

The Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery portrays a story of Indigenous Resurgence by transforming the Indigenous community's perception of what a cemetery can be. The project looks to respond to the local and traditional knowledge of the community and provide a meaningful space of gathering, process, and memory. 

 

Designed in association with the Iqaluit community and Landscape Architects, LEES + Associates, the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery achieves resurgence through actions and process. The community-driven design provides empowerment through the people of Iqaluit by utilizing local craftsman and traditional operations to create a contextual cemetery that prides itself on traditional burial and adaptive sacred spaces. The design embraces minimalism and ecological fortitude by creating a series of pathways with traditional materials that respond to the flooding on the site, in conjunction with a community management plan that looks to preserve and engage the tundras’ changes with permafrost.  

"The cemetery makes an eloquent statement, a blending of time, honouring those that have passed with the current landscape and the people that live within it." (ASLA, 2018)

CONTEXT


The Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery is located in Nunavut, Canada, and first opened to the public in October 2014. Nestled upon a crevice on the Baffin Bay in Nunavut, Canada, the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery looks to negotiate the seasonal flooding and cemetery degradation of the community. Led by landscape architects LEES+Associate in collaboration with the Inuit community, Elders, and Council, the project looks to stabilize the tundra's permafrost fluctuations while creating an adaptable sacred site for the community to connect with the land, the community, and their lost loved ones. The project is located on a three-acre site at the forefront of the community and aims to act as a connection between land, water, sky, and atmosphere.

(ASLA, 2018)




FUNDING


The City of Iqaluit funded the Iqaluit Cemetery through municipal taxes in an effort to find solutions for winter and spring flooding cemetery spaces. Currently, the City's Engineering Department has been reviewing the possibility of removing the municipal taxes and placing a $1,000 yearly burial fee to accommodate costs of the cemetery. The total cost of the cemetery revitalization was $500,000 Canadian Dollars.

(City of Iqaluit, 2013)




SITE ANALYSIS


The Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery extends to the edge of the eastern bank of the Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The project looks to preserve the natural tundra environment and aims to rectify a sacred cemetery that has been damaged by annual flooding. The cemetery finds itself within the core of the city, acting as a sacred ceremonial space that activates the Inuit culture and provides education on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Knowledge) for travelers. (Tagalik, 2009)

The project looks to redefine cemetery space for the community, offering a space that engages Inuit processes and materiality. This act of resurgence through community-driven design the cemetery becomes a catalyst for accessibility to loved ones, ceremonial space, and the Frobisher Bay waters.




PROJECT BACKGROUND AND HISTORY


The site of the old Iqaluit cemetery used to be located on the edge of wetland on the bank of the Frobisher Bay waters. Due to its fragile soil and extensive use, the cemetery became dilapidated and challenged the community's need for communal sacred space. The saturated ground would extensively flood the grave sites leaving waterlogged grounds that were inaccessible to the community. As a cultural landscape, the space was unable to be used for sacred ceremonies, funerals, and water accessibility. In addition, the excessive need for management, maintenance, and burial provided issues with the surrounding tundra landscape, placing the landscape at risk of ecological collapse.

(City of Iqaluit, 2013)

In 2013, the Iqaluit Council, Elders, and community brought forward landscape architecture firm, LEES+Associates to address the issues of the former cemetery. In order to revitalize the frail ground and the ecology of the land, the community alongside the firm chose to move the cemetery to a more secure section of the water's edge called the APEX. Less than 20m away, the site provided more stability and accessibility for the community to commemorate their loved ones, access the waters and views.

(ASLA, 2018)

The design proceeded through a two-year collaboration between landscape architects, engineers, municipal leaders, community, council, and elders who contributed to the site relocation, materiality, ecological knowledge, design process, and form. The project now stands as an example of empowerment for both the ecology of the site and the fortitude of the community - the cemetery acts as a dynamic space that strengthens the relationship between the land and the people it will serve.

(LEES+Associates, 2014)




THE CHALLENGE


One of the biggest challenges for this space was to respond to the flooding in the old cemetery and provide a culturally appropriate space for the community.

(ASLA, 2018)




GOAL OF THE PROJECT


The Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery aims to address the ecological fragility of the northern climate and transform the community's perception of what a cemetery can and should be. Honouring ecological vitality, cultural spirituality, and respecting Inuit knowledge are essential goals within the project’s overall process and design.

(ASLA, 2018)




GENESIS OF PROJECT


The Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery portrays a story of Indigenous Resurgence by transforming the Indigenous community's perception of what a cemetery can be. The project looks to respond to the local and traditional knowledge of the community and provide a meaningful space of gathering, process, and memory.

Designed in association with the Iqaluit community and Landscape Architects LEES + Associates, the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery achieves resurgence through actions and process. The community-driven design provides empowerment through the people of Iqaluit by utilizing local craftsman and traditional operations to create a contextual cemetery that prides itself on traditional burial and adaptive sacred spaces. The design embraces minimalism and ecological fortitude by creating a series of pathways with traditional materials that respond to the flooding on the site, in conjunction with a community management plan that looks to preserve and engage the tundras' changes with permafrost.

"The cemetery makes an eloquent statement, a blending of time, honouring those that have passed with the current landscape and the people that live within it."

(ASLA, 2018)




DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS


The design for the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery draws upon local Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit knowledge) which addresses changing contemporary landscapes, ecological systems and creating culturally meaningful space. The design process began with a two-year collaboration between LEES+Association, engineers, municipal leaders, Council members, Elders, and the surrounding community to create a community-driven design. The design addresses the waterlogged soil by relocation the cemetery just short of 20m to the North of Frobisher Bay to enhance ground stability, accessibility, and ecological vitality. This simple move allows the community to keep the wetland soil intact while revitalizing the tundra landscape of the area and providing sacred space for commemoration. The ecology of the space, as well as the vulnerable tundra landscape are at the forefront of this design development and are addressed by sequencing the location of burial areas to stabilize sustainable grounds for the tundra landscape.

(ASLA, 2018)

The overall atmosphere of the design pulls locally-sourced, culturally meaningful materials, and simple forms to honour indigenous traditions. The design offers a juxtaposition between natural materials and artifacts to lead visitors through the cemetery. Weathered boulders line the pathways and help delineate walking paths from the cemetery during heavy snowfall. The path leads visitors throughout the cemetery towards views of the Frobisher Bay, a strong axial path leads visitors to a ceremonial gathering space framing the ocean bay with locally crafted Bowhead Whale Jaw Bones arches. This area acts as a space for communal gatherings, sacred ceremonies, and spiritual connectivity as the arch acts as a gateway to the afterlife.

(LEES+Associates, 2014)

Weathered steel is also used to animate the cemetery and react to the salty air of the ocean. The changing steel speaks to the story of northern lights and characterizes the overall language of Iqaluit. "With an eloquent sensitivity to the local culture, the cemetery functions as a cultural landscape, validating local symbols and traditions while providing an open space for community use, remembrance and celebration."

(ASLA, 2018)




ROLE OF DESIGNERS


The firm LEES+Associates Landscape Architects was chosen to collaborate with the Inuit municipality, community, and Elders to solve the issues of the former water-logged cemetery. The role of the designers revolved around an extensive 2-year design process which involved community workshops, ateliers, and craftsmanship to provide a strong community relationship with the land.

(LEES+Associates, 2014)

The designers also acted as mediator between the site and Inuit knowledge to form and address the design language for the project. This process included creating minimal gateways with traditional materials (bowhead whale ribs), minimal circulation pathways with local stone, and extensive ecological management plans.

(ASLA, 2018)




PROGRAMMED ELEMENTS


The programmed elements within the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery respond to the climate, ecology, and spirituality of the Northern Communities offering:

- Bowhead whale bones to create a culturally and spiritually significant cemetery gateway for the community to utilize for ceremonies.

- Preservation of delicate tundra ecosystem through management ecosystem planning

- One of the first cemetery maintenance programming for northern climates

(CSLA, 2017)




PROJECT IMPACT


In 2017, the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery received the CSLA National Awards of Excellence for fortitude in Indigenous and community design and was further awarded in 2018 by ASLA for the powerful project.

(LEES+Associate, 2014)

Today, people view the project as a shared space for celebration, memorial, and ceremony. Although the landscape still suffers from vulnerability, the minimalism in the design approach allowed the landscape to strengthen not only the land but the community as well. The Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery is now a significant public open space for the municipality.

(ASLA, 2018)




MAINTENANCE AND MANAGEMENT


Management and maintenance processes for the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery were established through a series of procedural and operational plans by LEES+Associates.

(LEES+Associate, 2014)

The management and maintenance plan include burial ground operations, tundra sustainability, and community restoration. Summer months (July-August) are dedicated to grave opening and closing and establishing open burials for anticipated commemorations in the winter season. In addition, the community gets involved throughout these warmer months to address the tundra landscape. The community replaces and re-vegetate the vulnerable tundra within the burial grounds and cuts down tundra grasses before snowfall.

(ASLA, 2018)




CITATIONS


American Society of Landscape Architecture, 2018. Honors + Awards. Available at: https://www.asla.org/2018awards/455375-Iqaluit_Municipal_Cemetery.html [Accessed February 20, 2019]
Canadian Society of Landscape Architecture, 2017. Awards. [Website] Available at: https://www.csla-aapc.ca/awards-atlas/iqaluit-municipal-cemetery[Accessed February 18,2019]

City of Iqaluit, 2013. Burial and Cemetery Info Sheet. City of Iqaluit: Nunavut. Available at: https://www.city.iqaluit.nu.ca/sites/default/files/final_-_burial_and_cemetery_info_sheet_-_blue.pdf[Accessed February 18,2019]

LEES+Associates, 2014. About Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery. [Website] Availabel at: http://elac.ca/projects/iqaluit-municipal-cemetery/ [Accessed February 18,2019]

Tagalik, S. 2009. "The role of Indigenous Knowledge in supporting Wellness in Inuit communities in Nunavut". National Centre for Aboriginal and Inuit Health: Nunavut.





EDITOR

 

Samantha Miller

Nicole Brekelmans

Zoe Goldman

Desiree Theriault

NAVIGATE 

MCO-00-203-BRANDING-UMT-logo-F3 copy.png

THIS WEBSITE WAS CREATED TO REPRESENT URBAN STRATEGIES BEING TAKEN ACROSS CANADA. COPYRIGHT. 2017.

Professor Richard Perron

RESEARCHERS

CONTACT