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Tuugaalik High School: A Winning Design

Tuugaalik High School (formerly known as Repulse Bay High School) in Naujaat, Nunavut was designed to provide a multifunctional, flexible and adaptable facility primarily functioning as a school, but also to make space for the recreational and social needs of the community, after school hours. Its size and scope were driven by the need to accommodate 210 students, 24 daycare openings and to adhere to the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), eight principles influencing all aspects of Inuit life. Its design and construction meet the challenges of the Arctic environment and site conditions in accordance with Northern Good Building Practice Guidelines.


Tuugaalik High School is a great example of successful project coordination and planning. The construction contract was bid during the winter months and awarded in early spring. The timing was ideal as the spring thaw allowed the contractor to mobilize early in the season to blast bedrock and start building.

To ensure the area’s permafrost layer remains intact, most buildings installed in the North are essentially floating boxes on stilts. This also helps prevent blowing snow from drifting around the perimeter of the building.

The school was built in two phases: the gymnasium, daycare and atrium space in Phase 1 and the classroom wing in Phase 2. 

Design Features

In addition to providing learning spaces associated with southern pedagogy, the design provides spaces for a variety of trade courses, including woodworking, welding, sewing and cooking, and traditional activities, such as fur preparation.

The school also features a ‘Kiva’, a large community gathering space within its heart, commonplace in Nunavut schools. It is where community members come to interact with and educate students through informal lessons and story telling. The classroom wing, gymnasium, and daycare, are all accessible through this space.

Both the interior and exterior of Tuugaalik High School are painted in vibrant colours symbolic of the Arctic’s brief spring, which helps to reinforce positive connections. Specialized design techniques protect the permafrost and deflect snow from building facades. The site’s orientation and the incorporation of natural light are typical design features throughout the facility.

Space Features:

  • Standard classrooms
  • Science room
  • Library
  • Home studies room
  • Engine repair garage
  • Woodworking shop
  • Multipurpose classrooms
  • Gymnasium and weightlifting room
  • Kiva

Design Honours and Accolades

Tuugaalik High School has been fêted for its overall plan, architectural design, and attributes worthy of imitation.

It has been the recipient of an Honourable Mention and National Recognition award for excellence in educational facility design from Learning By Design magazine, the premier source of education design, innovation and excellence. Of the 59 outstanding projects nominated for special awards by the magazine, Tuugaalik High School was the only one located outside of the USA. The project was featured in the 2017 spring edition of the magazine.

The jury shared its praise for the facility by noting the “Smart design for climate and community needs. Use of laminated wood beams in the Kiva is a thoughtful detail for this significant space,” and “This took a great deal of understanding and engagement to fully adapt and incorporate local cultural ideals. Great use of colors, spaces, and CTE education.”

American School & University Educational Interiors Showcase acknowledged Tuugaalik High School in its 2017 American School & University Educational Interiors Showcase, the premier competition of its kind. Tuugaalik was selected the for design of its common areas.

Project Details

  • Location: Naujaat, Nunavut
  • Project Scope: New build
  • Size: 32,582 sq.ft.
  • Construction Costs: $27 million
  • Completion Date: August, 2016
  • In Association with Accutech Engineering Inc.


For more information on this project and other education facilities we’ve worked on in northern Canada please see:


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