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Conference paper

Place Specific Arctic Urbanism

The planning of Arctic cities largely still happens within a modernist master-planning framework. This tendency has paradoxically persevered, as anti-urban identity discourses relating to indigenous populations have left little room for re-evaluating city design. Twentieth century planning of Arctic cities has revolved around concepts of harsh climate, Arctic survival, and the robustness of infrastructure. Prevailing concepts of the Arctic city is still largely concerned with the urban “hardware”: roads, airports, pipes, functional buildings, and so on. This fundamentally modernist approach is founded on a deterministic relationship between the physical environment and people. However, looking outside the Arctic, one finds contemporary forms of urbanism that increasingly acknowledges the complexities of this relationship as the basis for the design and planning of cities. The theory and practice of urbanism have been revised significantly after the modernistic urban planning regime. To narrate this shift, Provoost and Vanstiphout coined three categories: ‘hardware’, ‘software’ and ‘orgware’. ‘Software’ refers to the ideas, images, memories, opinions, and plans of residents, visitors and professionals while ‘orgware’ (organisation-ware) describes the organisational complex of institutions, enterprises and civic society in a contextual, post-modern urbanism. This framework allows them to analyse and engage with a complex and contextual urbanism that deals not only with the climatic function of buildings or the efficiency of infrastructure, but also with people’s perceptions. This enables a meaningful co-creation of place rather than reductive modernist fabrication of space, while acknowledging the socio-economic framing conditions of the (re-)design of cities. Based on fieldwork in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, this paper will employ Provoost and Vanstiphout’s categories in a reading of cities and the planning behind them. It will suggest ways to move beyond the meta-narratives of e.g. industry versus environment or modernity versus aboriginality, in order to reveal the complexity of urban life in the Arctic cities. This includes identifying tensions between narrations of urban life as constructed from the outside and ones based on walking through the everyday environment of the city. Concluding, the paper will discuss wider implications of these perspectives on Arctic Urbanism – as a base for future planning beyond the current modernist logic.

Hemmersam, P.Harboe, L. 2016. 'Place Specific Arctic Urbanism'. Tromsø: Arctic Frontiers - Science: 25.01.2016–29.01.2016.