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Type of project
Basic research
Various sources

About the project

Investigating place-specific urbanism for sustainable communities in the Arctic.

The Arctic is urbanizing. This is not only a demographic change or an economic process reflecting changing employment structures and sectorial shifts but also one that reflects cultural evolutions, changing values and lifestyle choices.

The last century of urban planning in Arctic cities has revolved around concepts of harsh climate, robust infrastructure and social problems. Less attention has been paid to contemporary forms of urbanism and to the complexity and contradictions of contemporary cultures within the cities. Acknowledging and embracing these complexities in the relationship between people and place is a basis for the design and planning of cities. These urban processes aim to enable a meaningful co-creation of place rather than the reductive modernist fabrication of space, while at the same time acknowledging the socio-economic framing conditions of the (re-)design of cities.

The aim of the project “Arctic City” is twofold. On the one hand, the research seeks to uncover and investigate contemporary urban cultures in specific Arctic cities. On the other hand, the project contains an innovative component to explore and develop tools, processes, strategies, plans and designs that may contribute to the place-specific urban planning, design and development in the region. Overall, the project seeks to contribute to the post-colonial discourse on the Arctic by highlighting the tensions between paternalistic narrations of urban life as constructed from the outside – and the ones based on the actual use of the everyday urban environment.

In developing an urbanism of the Arctic, one has to leave behind the notions that they are in need of ‘development’ according to social narratives of idealised or abstract norms Urbanism and planning in the Artic region today has to capture contemporary cultures, values and lifestyles in each specific place. In order to move beyond the meta-narratives, such as industry versus environment or modernity versus aboriginality, this research project looks for ways to identify and build on the various but singular initiatives that reveal the complexity of urban life in the cities of the North.. In our research in various locations and communities we explore ways to capture and express richness of urban life, and its interactions with economy, ecology politics and planning.

The project critically discusses urbanism and planning in Arctic as it takes place today. The project explores and reflects on how such approaches may be materialized through developments and discussions of urban design proposals by students of architecture and landscape architecture. Through experimental, collaborative and designerly approaches we develop and propose place-specific practice and participatory processes that address Arctic cities as complex, diverse places in ways that are relevant to their inhabitants.