Modern North: Architecture on the Frozen Edge
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The geographic region around the North Pole is a raw and exotic area of untouched nature and inescapable beauty. Unique among the Earth's ecosystems, it includes both a vast, ice-covered ocean and a treeless region of tundra. Building in this extremely cold climate requires an advanced degree of ingenuity and resolve. Ecological conditions including high winds, snowdrifts, and permafrost, combined with periods of little or no sunlight, present seemingly impossible logistical hurdles. Recent years have witnessed an explosion of resident and invited architects creating buildings above 60 degrees latitude. The time has come for a new definition of a northern building—one that isboth extraordinarily responsive to place and aesthetically provocative.
In Modern North, author Julie Decker presents thirty-four of the most compelling and far-ranging possibilities of contemporary architecture in the North. These buildings—located in northern Canada, Scandinavia, and Alaska—are united in the way they embrace extreme conditions. Rather than shut themout, these conditions are welcomed and often formed into the buildings' structures and materials, as in the way architecture is employed to mediate the harshness of the low-lying sun without replacing it with the harshness of artificial lights. The architects of Modern North exploit the natural topography to provide visual stimulation in places that sometimes offer little more than a whitescape. Modern North includes innovative institutional and residential structures by both established and up-and-coming architects, including a-lab, David Chipperfield, Jarmund/Vigsnæs, Studio Granda, Shim-Sutcliffe, and Snøhetta. Essays by Brian Carter, Juhani Pallasmaa, Edwin Crittenden, and Lisa Rochon place the projects in the context of a new architectural response to the North.
land of the midnight sun.” Diehard skiers still love to hit the trails on the slopes, even in Fairbanks, where temperatures dip to -65°F or colder. Competitive cross-country skiers believe the area has the best early-season snow in the United States. The 11,175-square-foot ski building fulfills the Birch Hill mission through a service pod clad in galvanized metal, consisting of an entryway, an elevator, a stairway, waxing areas, changing rooms, and bathrooms. The second pod, which serves as a
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perspective meant to stimulate contemplation rather than to distract. The patterns of Alaskan birch bark inspired the long, thin horizontal windows. The 13,500-square-foot center offers opportunities to learn more about the energy industry through interpretive displays integrated into the facility’s design. The two-story complex includes three pods, one large meeting space to the south, an exhibit space to the north, and a second floor with several smaller meeting spaces. The ground-floor pods
are connected by glass corridors that also serve as exhibit spaces. The center’s six meeting/conference spaces can hold anywhere from twenty to one hundred people each. One room provides a nonconventional, living-room-style space designed for informal strategic planning. Other small spaces for minimeetings are located throughout the building. An internal “pathway” ties the facility together, with small interpretive exhibits that highlight the role of energy in the Alaskan economy and culture.
building highlights the presence of the great river and provides a place of gathering, a place of dance, storytelling, and the collecting and showing of artifacts. Its exhibits are a guide through the story of life at the traditional fish camp of Tr’ondëk, the gold rush, and the steps the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in took to become a selfgoverning nation. The structure of the building recognizes both the traditional and contemporary living culture of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in with references to traditional