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Installation view of Knowledge Clouds: Arctic University. Part of the exhibition DEEP FREEZE: Building for the North. Harbourfront Centre. Photography: Tom Bilenkey.

Knowledge Clouds: Arctic University

January 21 - January 21, 2019

Lateral Office

The Canadian Arctic is a landscape continually in flux, shifting due to wind, snow, ice and geology. It is also a landscape of movement; of people, species, and resources. The immensity of the land, the dispersed nature of population in the North and uniqueness of its geography and climate pose challenges and offer opportunities for inhabiting the North.

The Canadian Arctic is also a rapidly-changing frontier of knowledge and education. Expertise is plentiful, and yet, a locked-up resource in the Arctic. There exist two highly knowledgeable groups: the Inuit, whose intimate experience of the land surpasses most physical records, and the scientific community, who are intensely monitoring and recording changes in lifestyle, habitat and environment due to climate change. Both are struggling to communicate their knowledge of the Arctic, to each other, and to the rest of the world. While there exist several northern colleges that teach practical skills and trades, there are few opportunities that facilitate an inclusive common ground for learning and sharing traditional and scientific knowledge. Canada is currently the only country that does not have a degree-granting institution north of the Arctic Circle.

Knowledge Clouds examines how architecture can engage the scale of geography, and tests the possibility of an incremental, expandable, mobile system of education that can serve as seeds of knowledge exchange and production in the North. A pan-Arctic university is imagined as Knowledge Clouds: classroom units able to respond, deploy and aggregate, to suit changing local needs and learning calendars. Embracing the Arctic airship technology predicted to serve northern mines in the future, the classrooms consist of a series of lightweight units that can be shipped by air and remain on sites for varying periods of time. The form and materials are designed to respond to wind and weather when they anchored on the land, forming new knowledge sites across the Canadian North.


LATERAL OFFICE is an experimental design practice that operates at the intersection of architecture, landscape, and urbanism. The studio describes its practice process as a commitment to “design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment,” engaging in the “wider context and climate of a project – social, ecological, or political.” LATERAL OFFICE is committed to an architecture that responds directly to the demands of the 21st century – and the subsequent new typologies made possible by an architecture that brazenly confronts today. Recent work and research focuses on powerful design relationships between public realm, infrastructure, and the environment.

LATERAL OFFICE was founded in 2003 by Mason White and Lola Sheppard. Matthew Spremulli joined as an associate in 2011. Their work has been exhibited and presented in venues across the United States, Canada, and Northern Europe. Clients and collaborators have included City of Memphis, City of Reykjavik, City of Toronto, Culture and Heritage Nunavut, and Holcim Foundation, among others. LATERAL OFFICE has been recognized with several awards and merits including: the 2012 Arctic Inspiration Prize; the 2012 RAIC Young Architect Award; the 2011 Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction Gold Award; the 2011 Emerging Voices award from the Architectural League of New York; the 2010 Canada Council for the Arts Professional Prix de Rome.

Project Team: Mason White, Lola Sheppard, Matthew Spremulli, Mathias Kempton

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