Today, the Arctic is entering a new era of rapid urbanization and development due to emerging challenges created by climate change, geopolitical forces, and increased industrialization. These new pressures and geopolitical developments in the Arctic are poised to generate economic opportunity while also challenging indigenous traditions of, for example, the Greenlandic Inuit. In the role of the leading designer, collaborator, or consultant, Transpolar Studio aims to critically address these inherently spatial challenges through creative design projects positioned in the Arctic and Subarctic regions. Throughout this process, the following aspects will be critical in each project: capturing the collective imagination of local communities through participatory workshops, exploring climate resilience and adaptation strategies through extensive design research, and advocating for an inclusive future for indigenous peoples across the Arctic and beyond.
Transpolar Studio is founded by Bert De Jonghe and operates as a semi-nomadic design office based between Belgium and the United States.
Bert is a Belgian landscape architect and a Doctor of Design candidate at Harvard University. He earned his Master in Design Studies degree with a concentration in Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design after completing a Master of Landscape Architecture at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design and a Bachelor of Landscape and Garden Architecture at the School of Arts in Ghent. Previously, he has worked as a research assistant at Harvard GSD’s Office for Urbanization and with landscape architecture offices in Belgium, South Africa, and Norway.
Transcoastal Narratives is an ongoing collaboration with Japanese photographer and landscape architect Akie Koh, based in Tromsø, Norway. Since 2019, Akie Koh and Bert De Jonghe have been taking images of coastal landscapes in 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 image. This response is focused on a particular landscape feature, materiality, or composition.
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.
This study is an exploration of the underwater biotopes in Holmenvær and Ørja (Norway) in relation to marine litter.
Climate Change and the Opening of the Transpolar Sea Route: Logistics, Governance, and Wider Geo- economic, Societal and Environmental Impacts
Mia M. Bennett, Scott R. Stephenson, Kang Yang, Michael T. Bravo, and Bert De Jonghe