The Igloo, Northern Canada

The Igloo
Photo Courtesy Nunavut Tourism

The igloo is an iconic structure recognized around the world. At once beautiful and strong, simple yet complex, the architecture of an igloo represents an ingenious use of nature’s materials to suit human needs.

An igloo (Inuit language: iglu) or "snow house" is a shelter constructed from blocks of snow, generally in the form of a dome. Although igloos are mainly associated with the Inuit people of Canada’s Arctic (as well as being found in Greenland), they are also part of the common Canadian identity. After all - even putting aside the occasional jokes about Canadians living in igloos – many children around the country have at some point tried making their own igloo-like structure in the winter.

It’s been decades since igloos were a common form of housing for the Inuit, but traditionally, they ranged in size from small, one-person overnight shelters to large ceremonial complexes linked by smaller igloos.

The igloo is renowned for its spiral dome and ability to protect those inside from the cold. The dome’s blocks are cut diagonally with a snow knife or rip saw, and gently slope inward toward the top of the roof. As for warmth, a well-built igloo with a soapstone lamp could bring the temperature up to around 0° C when it’s –40° C outside. Add a little body heat to the equation, and you’re perfectly comfortable.

Video Report

Judges' Comments

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Did You Know

Video Report

The IglooThe Igloo (4:58)
From the archives of CBC: The National, March 14, 2005

Southern teachers working in the North are learning about Inuit culture and how to preserve their students' traditions. In Iqaluit the local Elders instruct teachers from all over Nunavut how to make igloos and traditional Ulu knives as part of the teachers professional development.

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Judges' Comments

Listen Now Judges' Comments (0:46)

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Audio Nominations

Listen Now Liz Driver (:40)

Listen Now Eugenie Thomas (:23)

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Email Nominations

Stan Anderson

The Quintessential home of the Inuit for millennia. Instantly recognizable throughout the world. Arguably one of the necessities of life in the North without which a whole race of people would not have survived. A true icon of the north and by extension Canada.

Orland Larson

Let's recognize and honour the snowhouse of the Inuit, properly known as an IGLOOAPUT, not just an "igloo".  The meaning of "igloo" is dwelling.  An "iglooaput" is a dwelling in snow! Some may be found as northern people travel, but this construction is something of the past. Canada was topped by the survival of this important group of people who helped make the Canadian Arctic what it is today. The IGLOOAPUT is truly a WONDER OF CANADA and should be identified as such!”

John Gurr

What could be more Canadian than something constructed out of snow?

Patty Deline

It is an architectural and an engineering wonder, designed and created with fewer tools than the pyramids, but as complex. Yet it can be easily taught to new generations and reproduced in a very short time. An IGLOO provides shelter in a very hostile environment using no non-renewable resources. Traditionally, it is heated and lighted from the same source, given its compactness, colour and shape. It is a model for the world in our days of global warming of how to live without using too much of the world resources. Ironically, our Northern peoples were among the first to alert us to the dangers of global warming. The IGLOO is made only by cooperation. In fact, it a great visual symbol for cooperation. Since Canada was made and continues to exist through cooperative efforts of its many founding and immigrating peoples, the IGLOO is a fitting symbol to show the world how it can be done. The IGLOO is a symbol of the Inuit, one of Canada's First Nations, to whom so much harm has been done. It is time for Canada to honour one of its creations, the IGLOO, part Inuit civilization, as one of Canada's Seven Wonders.

Jeff Quon

Beautiful, elegant, and a fusion of natural and man-made elements, the igloo signifies the perseverance of the Canadian people and how we adapt to our environment.

Joan Dykes

This is a union of man & nature and to see one lit at night is a truly wonderous sight.

Jay McNaughton

…one of the most igneous type of dwelling ever used.

Bob Dougherty

I nominate the igloo, the single and multi-family winter dwelling of northern Canada.

  • one of the oldest man made structures in the world that can still be used today.
  • early example of use of building insulation.
  • does not polute or cause environmental damage.
  • uses principal of the arch.

Berard and Patricia Bennett

To our mind the igloo is a must and the only true "wonder". It is esthetically appealing, almost uniquely Canadian and a true wonder in that it is the only domed structure ever built without a supporting form.

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Did You Know?

  • According to longtime northern broadcaster Roy Goose, you need the right type of snow to build an igloo - snow that breathes and which is not too hard. If the igloo is constructed properly, a person or even a polar bear can walk across the top and not damage the roof.

  • The ‘Igloo Church’ (Our Lady of Victory) is located in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. The dome-shaped church incorporates recycled materials like old hockey sticks and discarded metal sheeting in its structure.

  • What’s in a Name: Today, companies around the world ranging from design firms and ‘ethical diamond’ producers to cooler makers and music magazines have used ‘igloo’ as their corporate name.

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