Roofing and thawing the Northern city: how to design public spaces in (sub)arctic climate?

Theme 4. Education
Session Name 4.14 Arctic design: Thinking our way out of the global change
Presentation Type Poster
Author(s) Essi Oikarinen (University of Oulu, School of Architecture, Finland)
Abstract text

An increasing amount of Arctic population is living in cities and settlements. Despite the   development, seasonality still affects the rhythm of life and animation of urban environments to a large extent. Materiality of Arctic urban environments consists of changing conditions such as thawing, freezing, snow, ice, slush and the likes as much as of built artefacts (which often try to diminish the effects of the former).


However, within urban design field these temporal materialities are mainly treated as microclimatic, energetic forces – not from the point of view of humans experiencing the spaces. The research presented in the poster is based on a literature review, whose results are tested and illustrated by two Northern cities, Oulu and Luleå, through ethnographic observation. This poster presents an initial design typology for Arctic urban space through the viewpoint of experiencing Arctic urban materialities.


The research is inspired by the notion that temporality of experiences in an Arctic city opens up a new theoretical question within urban space conceptions: how to redefine spaces which are tactile, haptic and sonorous as much as visual and static (as usually thought by designers)? This also touches upon the broader recognition of how nonhuman agency and in this case, climate change particularly, is shaping the spaces of contemporary cities.