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Resource Negotiations in Kirkenes

Intervention Strategy: Nature, Labor, Land. A Public Spatial Archive

Nabil Ahmed, Dámaso Randulfe

Intervention Strategies speculate on the architectures associated to the particularities of each site, and can range from spatial strategies, typological variations, and material prototypes to digital platforms and legal propositions, among many others.

Nature, Labor, Land operates on three negotiations in the region: The melting of the Arctic ice (Nature), the expected global shipment along the Northeast Passage (Labor), and the indigenous conception of the territory (Land). These three areas serve as a starting point to interrogate Kirkenes as a global model and reference point for a potential ‘transnational eco-political citizenship’.

The intervention works in the intersection of non-human nature, indigenous rights and transnational labor by mapping these often neglected actors in the Arctic region around Kirkenes. The project seeks to produce a public spatial archive for the creation of a forum of discussion for the construction of a new eco-political Arctic governance.

Conceived as three consecutive chapters, the intervention strategy will develop a year-long series of field trips, interviews, audiovisual material, workshops, and participatory GIS mappings with the aim to assemble an archive of scientific and legal evidence. Beyond one-dimensional accounts of belonging and restrictive definitions of residence, this collaborative, open-ended process fosters a repository of tools for architects, activists, and interested citizens alike. The process will be developed simultaneously through a digital platform and onsite in Kirkenes.

Site Brief:

Site Briefs provide the framework for the In Residence: Call for Intervention Strategies and Call for Associated Projects, and open up architectural questions associated to each site.

Kirkenes Harbor. Mathis Herbert (2009). Courtesy of the author.

When defining transformative constructions of belonging in relation to the urban landscape of Kirkenes, legal alliances are acting in parallel to natural resource extraction policies. Located on the border with Russia in the furthest northeastern area of Norway that once defined the only NATO border with the Soviet Union, Kirkenes now constitutes a limit of the Schengen region. Here, local negotiations materialize in global borders and transnational workers’ architectures.

Following the end of the Cold War, stronger ties and peaceful contacts across borders were fostered throughout the northernmost parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and northwest Russia, formalized in 1993 by the signing of the Barents Euro Arctic Region cooperation agreement in Kirkenes.[1] The maritime border between Norway and Russia was recently delimited after a forty-year long dispute for the control of an area rich in oil and gas, fostering a series of legal treaties for their mutual benefit. With the Pomor Visa (2010), exchanges between Barents Russia and northern Norway are facilitated even further, giving rise to a transnational industrial and economic zone, known as the Pomor zone. [2] This transnational character is manifested in the urban landscape, with bilingual signage and advertising boards and constant connections in ordinary activities like shopping. [3]

Once a fishing town in the far northern region of the planet, Kirkenes’ built environment has been transformed into a strategic point for the industrial, scientific and touristic sector. This change is expected to provoke a two-fold effect. The reactivation of the mining industry and the interest of global energy companies in new sites of extraction in the region has prompted the construction of land-based infrastructure for oil and gas, new highways, new plans for a rail link with Finland, and the opening of new shipping routes. [4] With the melting of the Arctic, new cargo ships are expected to stop in Kirkenes en route from China and South Korea to the West. However, through these routes, it is not only oil and iron that circulate, but also temporary workers, scientists, and tourists. Addressing in particular the need for professionals from the oil and gas industries, Norway promotes the granting of Job Seeker visas to those “willing to (...) settle in Norway for a brighter future.” This conglomeration of new activities is expected to translate into an increase in housing to host these incoming floating populations, increasing the size of the city by around 20%. [5]

The specific case of Kirkenes, with its contentious landscape and its heterogenous floating population, allows an inquiry into the way architecture contributes to territorial creation and collective forms of residence that embody geopolitical and environmental frictions.

Site Report (A Teaser):

Transborder Studio on Resource Negotiations in Kirkenes

Reports about the sites have been commissioned from a group of international architects, artists, journalists, and other professionals. The commission for these reports is intended to challenge ideas of ‘site’ solely concerned with geometric boundaries and contextual references. Intervention strategies and associated projects do not need to respond to these reports.

In Residence: Sites

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