Over the past year we have been working alongside the Stove Network on a project in Dumfries exploring Our Norwegian Story. During World War II the town boasted a population made up of up to 20% Norwegians. Our project has focused on a number of events highlighting narratives of this period in the town’s history, buildings and spaces used by the Norwegians during the war (there was a Norwegian Folk museum and Norges Hus, to name but a few of the buildings) and creating a Norwegian Heritage Trail with the Dumfries community.
On April the 14th 2017 the trail went live and over 100 people attended the weekend of activities based around Our Norwegian Story.
We will be progressing the project alongside the Stove Network as we reach our to our Norwegian (and Nordic) partners and explore further international connections and how these can be opportunities for communities. The goal of the project from the start was to create new cultural wayfinding within Dumfries and we believe, as do the Stove Network, that this is the first stage of that venture; however, we also believe that these types of projects and the outputs they produce can regenerate our town centres.
2020 marks the 80th anniversary of the first Norwegian arriving in Dumfries and it is our ambition that this project will continue to progress – big plans are afoot for that anniversary using our international connections, heritage and culture to create opportunities for the benefit of communities now; in this case we hope that Our Norwegian Story will have a lasting effect on Dumfries town centre.
12 months ago we led a ‘delegation’ of Scots to the conference and hosted a breakout session on the final day named ‘Possible Arctic Scotland’. The breakout session was held in the high echelons of Harpa late on the last day and conflicted with ‘that’ Scotland vs Australia rugby match, so we weren’t expecting a huge turn out: both from the audience and speakers themselves!
Much to our surprise we had both quantity and quality in the people who came to listen to our session including the Faroese Foreign Minister, artists from Iceland and the director of the Anchorage Museum. It was a session we had billed as being filled with a design perspective of the Arctic and Scotland’s relationship to the High North. We’d managed to get along designers such as Ellis O’Connor and Gemma Lord, journalist and author Dominic Hinde, and both the Stephen twins; the directors of Dualchas Architects.
Our two-hour session was filled with engaging presentations as well as interesting comments from the audience. The most important comment from our perspective, though, came from one of the Icelandic artists. She highlighted that out of the 2000 delegates at the conference not even a single percent was from a design background and for that reason she believed our session was important to promote how art and design can play a key role in future development.
It was a feeling that we had had on our previous venture to Iceland the year before and a big part of the reason why we top loaded the Scottish breakout session with designers and artists. We hoped that ours, and others, might encourage greater engagement with design in the Arctic.
This year’s Arctic Circle Assembly though will include a number of design led practices, exhibitions and sessions which is very exciting. The fact that some of the same people we collaborated with last year are a key part of Prospect North is even more exciting; indeed, their work is a key part of the exhibition itself as ourselves and Soluis have utilised augmented and virtual reality to showcase them in a number of different ways.
Last year Ellis O’Connor jumped down from the north of Iceland where she was doing a residency to join us in Reykjavik for the conference. Now she is somewhere in the middle of Svalbard fending off a whole different sort of polar bear from the ones we have with us in Iceland. This year though, her painting, a charcoal piece reflecting Scotland and the Arctic, will be one of the main draws to Prospect North and shows what can be achieved through augmented reality as it morphs on screen to become a beautiful aerial montage of the country we live in.
Last year Alasdair Stephen of Dualchas talked poetically about how their houses are a response to the architecture of the Gael, how a traditional blackhouse formed the diagram of their HebHomes and how these buildings address the rural landscape of Scotland. He then went on to challenge people to think of how a similar ethos could be applied to an Arctic house typology.
This year we are showing that journey, and its potential future, through VR as we ask people to put on our polar bear masks (Einar Bearsson, Magnus Bearlegs and their sister who will be named at the conference) and immerse themselves in the past, present and future of rural Scottish architecture. We’ve created these in 360-degree video and developed the story from a clearance village in Skye to a dualchas home a little further around the coast to Our Arctic Home – a project we are currently developing to provide affordable, multi-use, multi-generational housing within a rural context using new building techniques and innovative technologies.
We’ll bring more of our own projects with us as well as we showcase Possible Scotland and Our Norwegian Story, and how similar projects could be replicated throughout the High North, but most importantly for us is to show how art, design and architecture can, and should, play an important role in the future of the High North and how it must not be ignored.
Thankfully, it looks like it’s not.
Prospect North: A Year in the Making October 4th, 2016admin
Having spent the better part of 5 years researching, investigating and understanding the emerging economic region of the ‘High North’ there is some excitement within the Lateral North office as the Arctic Circle Assembly gathers in October.
Previous years of the conference have seen distinguished figures including Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Ban Ki Moon speak at an event which aims to engage with those “interested in the development of the Arctic and its consequences for the future of the globe”. This year’s plenary sessions will see the first Scottish presentation. It will be the First Minister of Scotland carrying this year’s baton; and not only that, but Nicola Sturgeon will be the keynote speaker at the assembly – hence our excitement!
The last two years have seen delegates address Scotland, and in particular the Highlands and Islands. These regions we believe, should be engaging with the future of the Arctic. Over the past few years a number of initiatives have begun to spring up showcasing collaborative projects between Scotland and our North Atlantic neighbours. These range from Shetland who presented at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso (Norway) on the North Atlantic Energy Network, an initiative they are actively pursuing alongside Faroese, Icelandic, Greenlandic and Norwegian partners, through to Timespan in Helmsdale (Scotland) who have, for the past two years, worked on a project titled 58 degrees North as they reach out to 6 other villages of similar size around the globe at a similar latitude.
So, the fact that the ‘High North’ is a challenge/opportunity (delete as appropriate) which is being addressed at a Scottish government level might not come as a surprise, but it is none the less still very exciting. The investigation of the ‘High North’ is, arguably, a reflection of Scotland and the outward approach which is evident across the country from a grass roots to governmental level.
However, it is also a reflection of a worldwide geo-political shift. The Arctic is becoming a region which is no longer just discussed within the eight member countries of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) and is clearly reflected in who makes up the observer states within the organisation. Countries several thousand miles south of the Arctic Circle (namely Singapore and India) actively engage with the region for a variety of reasons. So, Scotland, sitting only 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle line has a clear relationship with the region to be explored.
As a practice it is a theme we actively investigate and promote, so it is very exciting for us to be able to announce that we are going to form part of the Scottish group which will present at the Arctic Circle Assembly between the 7-9th of October this year. Not only will we present, but we will also be exhibiting as Prospect North travels from the warm canals of Venice to Reykjavik’s cold waterfront and we will also be hosting a workshop which aims to reflect the outward approach mentioned above. Our aim is to showcase community orientated projects throughout Scotland but to also highlight how design and technology can transform community engagement across the High North.
We have once again teamed up with our friends at Soluis who will be joining us as participants at our breakout session will be invited to take part in an interactive workshop to identify potential challenges, opportunities and outcomes from throughout the Arctic region.
We are keen to share as well as learn what community projects are active throughout the ‘Arctic’ at both a micro and a macro level, and then bring this discussion back to Scotland. Get involved through our blog and social media outlets and follow what we are up to in the run up to the Arctic Circle Assembly and beyond.
Prospect North Goes North to Arctic Circle Assembly, Iceland September 27th, 2016admin