This bleach-white building, capped by a silvery dome meant to imitate the Inuvialuit snow-houses of old, dates back to Inuvik’s early days as a planned community.
Built in 1960 by a team of volunteers, Our Lady of Victory church was designed by Catholic missionary Maurice Larocque – an experienced carpenter who had no formal architectural training. Construction was actually completed without a building permit because the government officials in Ottawa couldn’t understand Larocque’s blueprints.
Nevertheless, Larocque knew a thing or two about building in the Arctic. The round shape of the structure mitigates the damage caused by frost heaving. The church is also the only major building in Inuvik that doesn’t rest on piling. Its foundation consists of a bowl-shaped concrete slab on top of a bed of gravel. The gravel acts as insulation, stopping the heat of the building above from melting the permafrost underneath.
Wood for the church was floated down the Mackenzie River from Fort Smith, nearly 2,000 kilometres away. Inside, old hockey sticks were repurposed to floor a walkway in the cupola and the interior walls feature paintings of the Station of the Cross by local Inuvialuit artist Mona Thrasher.
Today, the church is a major landmark in downtown Inuvik and one of the town’s most-photographed structures. During the summer months, tours are available throughout the week and weekend.