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

Mission

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.

Office

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.

Projects

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.

Publications

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, and Bert De Jonghe

  • Book Title

    The Arctic and World Order

  • Editors

    Kristina Spohr, Daniel S. Hamilton

FORTHCOMING

Book

Inventing Greenland - Designing an Arctic Nation

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

FORTHCOMING
  • Editor

    Mia M. Bennett

  • Publisher

    Actar Publishers

Book

Reading Beyond

  • Editors

    Bert De Jonghe and Fatma Mhmood

  • Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

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, and Bert De Jonghe

  • Marine Policy Journal, Volume 121

Opinion

Reimagining the Future of Habitation in Greenland

  • Author

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Arctic Today

Conference presentation

Chromatic Geographies of Greenland

  • Speaker

    Bert De Jonghe

  • Session

    Unstable horizons: Reimagining, rewriting, and terraforming earthly volumes

  • Place

    Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (2021)

Contact

Bert De Jonghe

Instagram: @transpolarstudio

Email: info@transpolarstudio.com