Transpolar Studio is a design practice specializing in landscape architecture, urbanism, and design research in the Arctic and Subarctic regions.

Mission

In the past, the Cir­cum­po­lar North’s built envi­ron­ment has been dom­i­nat­ed by a nation-state point of view, was influ­enced by design per­spec­tives appro­pri­ate to more south­ern land­scapes, as well as suf­fered from a lim­it­ed under­stand­ing of the region’s inter­nal dynam­ics, unique cli­mat­ic con­di­tions, and diver­si­ty of peo­ple and cul­tures. Today, emerg­ing Arc­tic ship­ping routes, declin­ing sea ice, expand­ing resource extrac­tion, grow­ing mil­i­tary imper­a­tives, new geostrate­gic ambi­tions, and shift­ing tourism net­works indi­cate the Arc­tic is an increas­ing­ly acces­si­ble and com­plex three-dimen­sion­al space. This evo­lu­tion may offer plen­ti­ful eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties but also cre­ate new risks and con­cerns among the eight Arc­tic states and their peo­ple groups. In the role of lead­ing design­er, col­lab­o­ra­tor, or con­sul­tant, Trans­po­lar Stu­dio aims to crit­i­cal­ly address these inher­ent­ly spa­tial chal­lenges through cre­ative design projects locat­ed in the Arc­tic and Sub­arc­tic regions.

Office

Trans­po­lar Stu­dio is a design prac­tice spe­cial­iz­ing in land­scape archi­tec­ture, urban­ism, and design research in the Arc­tic and Sub­arc­tic regions. Bert De Jonghe is the founder of Trans­po­lar Stu­dio, a Lec­tur­er in Land­scape Archi­tec­ture at Har­vard University’s Grad­u­ate School of Design (GSD), and a Doc­tor of Design can­di­date at Har­vard GSD. He holds degrees from Har­vard GSD (Mas­ter in Design Stud­ies), the Oslo School of Archi­tec­ture and Design (Mas­ter of Land­scape Archi­tec­ture), and the School of Arts in Ghent (Bach­e­lor of Land­scape and Gar­den Archi­tec­ture). In the past, he has worked as a design­er at var­i­ous land­scape archi­tec­ture prac­tices world­wide and served in sev­er­al teach­ing posi­tions, includ­ing Uni­ver­si­ty Lec­tur­er at the Arc­tic Uni­ver­si­ty of Nor­way in Tromsø.

Team col­lab­o­ra­tors: Mia Ben­nett (polit­i­cal geo­g­ra­ph­er) & Zak Jaco­bi (land­scape architect).

Projects

Svalbard is an Arctic territory built on an irreducible plurality of interests and design traditions. Yet, in recent years, Norway has tended to increasingly overshadow the desires and design influences of others. Contesting Svalbard combines a granular understanding of the spatial implications of multinational occupation in Svalbard with a critique of the Norwegian nationalism of the Svalbard project. Five tipping points, or issues in Svalbard’s built environment, are selected as fertile ground to inject a range of alternative futures, catalyzing the archipelago’s multinational character. To do so successfully, a participatory and scenario planning approach based in design research is central.

Departing as a work of synthesis and curation, this study is grounded in a historical understanding of Arctic settlements across a range of spatial, temporal, and cultural registers. This diverse, relational, and extensive reading of a plural Arctic is in each chapter linked to the archipelago of Svalbard. Norway has complete sovereignty over the island group. Yet, the Svalbard Treaty grants all 46 signatory states equal rights to conduct commercial and scientific research activities on the archipelago. This results in an intricate mix of interests and stakeholders, as well as a unique foundation for design experimentation, collaboration, and speculation in an Arctic context. Norway is, however, tightening its grip on Svalbard, impacting the idea of Svalbard as an “Arctic common” imagined and designed by many nations and people groups.

The participatory aspect of this study kickstarted with three co-design workshops in Longyearbyen during May 2023.

Image 1: Cluster analysis of the Circumpolar North. Maps by Bert De Jonghe, 2023.

Image 2: Design workshops in Longyearbyen organized by Transpolar Studio. Photo by Olivia Eastwood, Nordover Svalbard, 2023.

Coastal Connections is an ongoing collaboration with Japanese photographer and landscape architect Akie Koh (Snøhetta, Oslo). Since 2019, Akie Koh and Bert De Jonghe have been taking images of coastal landscapes in Greenland, Norway, Belgium, Japan, and the US. The concept of this project is simple: we aim to find surprising similarities and ironic connections in often very different coastal landscapes. The collection of images represents a conversation, by which every image is a response to another. This response is focused on a particular landscape feature, materiality, or composition. The expected outcome of this work is an exhibition.

In recent decades, industrialization has strongly shaped the landscape of Murmansk, Kola Peninsula, Russia. By documenting and merging industrial sounds, this study frames the soundscape of Murmansk into a scene of complex negotiation processes between multiple actors, both local and global. Link

Across the Arctic, a great deal of commercial aviation infrastructure has its roots in World War II military operations and their protraction during the Cold War.1 Although many of these military imperatives have weakened, the path dependency of air transportation networks, which require enormous amounts of fixed capital, makes them difficult to alter.

As airpower became key to global military might in the 20th century, Greenland’s neighbor, the United States, started building airstrips and missile defense sites in the country as a matter of national security. American interest heightened after April 9, 1940, when the Nazis invaded Denmark, which had controlled Greenland since the early 18th century. With Denmark unable to send supplies to Greenland, let alone exercise sovereignty over it, the Danish ambassador to the United States disobeyed the Danish government and signed an agreement granting American access to the world’s largest island.2 In addition to civilian resupply and the construction of facilities such as weather stations, ports, depots, search-and-rescue stations, and more, this agreement made it possible for the US to establish military airbases on Greenlandic soil. Greenland’s aeroscape was thus originally constructed to the needs of American military colonialism3 rather than those of Greenlanders.

Today, some Greenlandic policymakers are calling for the relocation of certain airports as both a necessary economic step and a move away from Danish and American histories. One example from eastern Greenland involves the proposed relocation of the military/civilian airport on Kulusuk Island (pop. 240) to the main population hub of Tasiilaq, 20 kilometers away (pop. 2000).4 Aligning Greenland’s aeroscape with centers of population and economic activity, however, could disconnect the settlements that initially arose to support American-built airports, and whose continued existence depends on their operation. As postcolonial nations work to reconfigure infrastructural networks to better match local needs, the difficulties that Greenland is encountering within this transition underscore the challenges of including communities whose origins lie in military and colonial interventions within new nation-building projects.

1. M. Farish and P.W. Lackenbauer, “High Modernism in the Arctic: Planning Frobisher Bay and Inuvik,” Journal of Historical Geography 35, no. 3 (2009): 517—44.

2. J. Rahbek-Clemmensen, and L.J. Nielsen, “The Middleman—The Driving Forces behind Denmark’s Arctic Policy,” in Handbook on Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic, (Switzerland: Springer, 2020), 77—96.

3. M. Heymann, H. Knudsen, M. L. Lolck, H. Nielsen, and C. J. Ries, “Exploring Greenland: Science and Technology in Cold War Settings,” Canadian Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine 33, no. 2 (2010): 11—42.

4. Stine Bendsen, Jesper Nordskilde, and Mads Paabøl Jensen, “The Transport Commission of Greenland,” Association for European Transport and Contributors, 2011.

First image: The US Air Force providing fuel for Kangerlussuaq Airport, 1951, Bent Helmudt, Courtesy of the Danish Arctic Institute.

Second image: Kulusuk Airport, 2017, Bert De Jonghe.

Positions

FORTHCOMING

Edited volume

Arctic Practices - Design For a Changing World

  • Editors

    Bert De Jonghe & Elise Misao Hunchuck

FORTHCOMING
  • Publisher

    Actar Publishers

  • Editorial advisor

    Michael Bravo

  • Graphic Design

    Studio Folder

  • Date

    2024

FORTHCOMING

book chapter

Designing with coastal change in the high-Arctic: pedagogic perspectives

  • Authors

    Eimear Tynan & Bert De Jonghe

FORTHCOMING
  • Book

    Arctic Practices - Design For a Changing World

  • Editors

    Bert De Jonghe & Elise Misao Hunchuck

  • Publisher

    Actar Publishers

  • Date

    2024

FORTHCOMING

book chapter

Developing Nuuk: Housing design from the 1950s and onwards

  • Authors

    Bert De Jonghe & Peter Hemmersam

FORTHCOMING
  • Editor

    Daniel Di Falco

  • Book and Exhibition

    Greenland - Everything Changes

  • Place

    The Alpine Museum of Switzerland

  • Translations

    German and French

Visual essay

Brief notes on Arctic extremes

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Journal

    Kerb Journal 31

  • Editors

    Hosiasson et al.

  • Date

    2024

  • Theme

    Kerb 31 explores the role of limits in navigating design complexity

  • Additional

    Link

Peer-reviewed Book Chapter

Airport Landscapes: The Case of Qaqortoq Airport, South Greenland

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Editors

    Leena Cho and Matthew Jull

  • Book

    Design and the Built Environment of the Arctic

  • Publisher

    Routledge

  • Date

    2023

  • Additional

    Link

Presentation

Imagining Transpolar Futures

  • Venue

    DocTalks x MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)

  • Speaker

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Date

    28 November 2023

  • Additional

    Link

Book Chapter

Climate Change and the Opening of the Transpolar Sea Route: Logistics, Governance, and Wider Geo- economic, Societal and Environmental Impacts

  • Authors

    Mia M. Bennett, Scott R. Stephenson, Kang Yang, Michael T. Bravo, & Bert De Jonghe

  • Book Title

    The Arctic and World Order

  • Editors

    Kristina Spohr, Daniel S. Hamilton

  • Date

    December, 2020

  • Additional

    Link

Article

Tracing the Limits to Climate Adaptation: From the Pacific Small Island Developing States to the Arctic Region

  • Authors

    Begoña Peiro & Bert De Jonghe

  • Publisher

    KoozArch

  • Date

    November, 2022

  • Additional

    Link

Book

Inventing Greenland - Designing an Arctic Nation

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Publisher

    Actar Publishers

  • Foreword

    Charles Waldheim

  • Editorial advice

    Mia M. Bennett

  • Date

    March, 2022

  • Additional

    Link

Article

Arctic Tourism and Urban Growth

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Publisher

    UrbanNext

  • Editor

    Marta Bugés

  • Date

    April 2022

  • Additional

    Link

Presentation

Transpolar Futures

  • Venue

    University of Cambridge's Architecture Department

  • Speaker

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Date

    7 November 2023

  • Additional

    Link

Conference presentation

Chromatic Geographies of Greenland

  • Venue

    Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers

  • Speaker

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Session

    Unstable horizons: Reimagining, rewriting, and terraforming earthly volumes

  • Date

    2021

Peer-Reviewed article

The opening of the Transpolar Sea Route: Logistical, geopolitical, environmental, and socioeconomic impacts

  • Authors

    Mia M. Bennett, Scott R. Stephenson, Kang Yang, Michael T. Bravo, & Bert De Jonghe

  • Journal

    Marine Policy Journal, Volume 121

  • Date

    November 2020

  • Additional

    Link

Announcement

e-flux Architecture

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Date

    July 2022

  • Additional

    Link

Spotlight

Teaching in the high-Arctic

  • Summary

    Bert De Jonghe's semester teaching in Arctic Norway (Fall 2023) is discussed on Harvard GSD's website.

  • Date

    January 2024

  • Additional

    Link

Contact

Bert De Jonghe ©2024 Belgium

Private limited liability company BE0656856482

Instagram: @transpolarstudio

Email: info@transpolarstudio.com