Small Projects and Large History

The three master students from Copenhagen on the wall.

With three master students from the Danish Design School in Copenhagen I am living in a block of flats in Nuuk, Greenland. This block is going to be demolished early next year, I guess when the spring weather allows. The block has such a damaged social history locally but looks just like any Modernist block all over the world. The typical Universal Solution of Modernist Architecture.

Built by the Danish Colonial Government in Greenland in 1966 and used as a home for indigenious people, many of who were moved to the main town in the Greenland colony named Nuuk. People were shifted in from small local settlements that had existed for hundreds or thousands of years. The Modernist colonial government probably assumed that the relocation would be a move to Modernist way of living with better access to health support and schooling but the results were disastrous in most ways. When I started in School of Architecture in the early 70’s the attitude of Modernist Thought was that we are all the same and we can all live the same way in Modernist buildings and with modern system solutions and we should not complain. This was one of the major disasters all over the world during the 20th Century and unfortunately my architectural collegues were prominent in that thought. Today we have a situation that it does not matter if you are located in Africa, Asia or just in your local community in your citiy, many of us live in blocks that are of the International Style by architects. In these environments, and especially here in Greenland, the people in some way lose their roots to the land, the climatic conditions or whatever gives us belief in life. This is the sadness of the 20th century coming from my disapeared collegaues architects and planners with political thought and universalistic thought.

The block P in Nuuk, waiting for being pulled down. Lots of plywood over the windows. We live on 3rd floor on the left where there is no plywood!

I must say that I am fortunate now to get the opportunity to reach this building before it is removed. The information is that roughly 80% of the flats have no-one living in them, with plywood boarded windows and ineffective ‘housing’ support. Now, the building has such a stigmatic history that the best solution is to remove it. Even though it looks just like many buildings all around the world and actually also here in Greenland. This is one of the possible actions of architecture: to remove architecture that has stigma to address history and social habits. My opinion is that this is a correct decision to make here in Nuuk, but I must admit that I am not optimistic of great corrections in the terrible new constructions that are being produced in the Nuuk town today. They look just as ignorant of climate and people like the previous ones. I am sorry to be such a pessimist but there is such arrogance in my profession and ignorance of users social and psychological needs for existance that my hunch is that the same will happen again. Unless we start working with the local people about their traditions and local conditions in terms of climate, seasons and relations to history.

Here are a few images from the block

I would love to find small projects where we can work together in developing small (not large and arrogant!) developments in various fields. I guess souvernis productions, product developments, service design, communication systems and personal development. All of these are issues addressed by designers in cooperation with other professions or non-educated experts.

I was told yesterday about the huge aluminium plant proposal here North of Nuuk planned by the arrogant company Alcoa that has damaged badly my country Iceland. Other future hopes are Uranium mining, both in the North of Nuuk and in the South run by Chinese grand companies! What a future we can see here in the Wild Glacial Nature if those projects will be realized!