60 502 Urban Design: Arctic City - Longyearbyen


For students of architecture and landscape architecture.

Recommended prerequisite knowledge

Basic knowledge of urban design, urban landscape design and/or knowledge of social development and design in arctic areas.

Course content

The Arctic is changing, not only in terms of climate and environment, but also in terms of demography and urbanism. These changes have lead to intense debates and extensive research. Through the research project Future North (www.futurenorth.no) along with a series of studios, the Institute of Urbanism and Landscape has investigated the urban landscapes and the development in a variety of Arctic cities, demonstrating that there is not one standard model for Arctic Urbanism. The studio stresses the fact that contemporary changes in Arctic cities are not necessarily connected to resource exploration and exploitation, but also to a general socital change. The studio challenges conceptions of Arctic communities as non-urban, and concepts of urbanity in the Arctic as largely imported from other regions. Most recent attempts to develop specific approaches to Urban Design have essentialized landscape relations in design, focused narrowly on mitigation of local climate or reduced urbanity to an engineering issue.

This studio will explore the specific urban landscape of Longyearbyen in the archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. The community have undergone a rapid development, possibly facing even more dramatic changes in years ahead. A main issue for the arctic communities is the development of social, economic and environmental sustainability, so also Longyearbyen. This studio focuses on a wide range of issues, however, not to separate them, but rather to capture the complexity of the real and site-specific, treating them as complementary and entangled. What kind of urban design strategies, projects and landscape interventions will benefit Longyearbyen in order for it to become a more liveable, sustainable and enjoyable artic city?

The studios will develop sets of strong, but complementary logics of urban design that focus on a wide range of issues: social, cultural, infrastructural, ecological, etc. It is the complementarity of these approaches that first and foremost promises sustainability in the future thinking of cities in the arctic.
A mapping of potentials and ressources but also of the challenges and needs in Longyearbyen will form the basis for programming the design exercise.
Specific issues to be addressed may include: the development of a new port, the phase out of coal mining, the location and design of new residences, strategies for long-term sustainable urban development with a focus on inclusive (universally designed) urban social space, the development of tourism infrastructure, as well as the facilitation and redevelopment of new social, commercial and retail services.

In collaboration with local actors, students from AHO and the Tromsø Academy of Landscape and Territorial Studies will propose projects, strategic urban designs, and landscape interventions in and around the city of Longyearbyen. Students will have the opportunity to individually develop their own project, based on the collective mapping conducted by the two studios. This open process includes a step-by-step development of ideas, programmes, strategies and designs, guided by the studio teachers.
Teachers and researchers in the Future North research project and researchers at the University of Tromsø will contribute to the studio.

Learning outcomes

After the studio, students will have acquired knowledge of theories and current issues within the design of cities and landscapes in the Arctic.

After successfully completing the studio, the student will have acquired experience and skills relating to fieldwork as well as both established and experimental forms of urban mapping.

Overall accomplishment
After successfully completing the studio, the student will be able to develop a critical position with regards to arctic urbanism and be able to develop this by gathering necessary information. Based on this the student will be able to independently develop strategic design proposals for northern, urban landscapes and cities.

Working and learning activities

The studio starts with an intensive theoretical seminar on arctic urbanism and development. Students will read and present texts to the class. This is followed by a week-long mandatory visit to Longyearbyen. Students will conduct mapping in groups and establish a shared knowledge base. Following this, students will program and develop a design project. This will be an individual exercise, or take place in teams of two. The studio also includes two mandatory design workshops relating to the design project. All students are also required to participate in the production of the studio booklet, which will document theoretical perspectives, aspects of the knowledge base and selected strategic design proposals. The final presentation will be with an external examinor.
By signing up to the course students commit to doing field work in Longyearbyen and the associated travel and accomodation expenses (travel should be booked soon).

Professor in charge

Peter Hemmersam

Mandatory work requirements

Work requirements Number Number of approved Mandatory presence Comment
Counselling meeting 10

individual supervision

Project 1 1 Ja

Semester project

Workshops 2 2 Ja

Two workshops related to Studio project.

Oral examination 3 3 Ja

3 interim reviews (one may take place in Tromsø)

Excursions 1 1 Ja

field work in Longyearbyen


Assessment Date Duration Grade scale Oral examination
Prosjektoppgave Individual 2015-12-14 00:00 45 minutes Pass / Fail 100

Indiviual presentation of studio project (or in teams of two).